Giselle S. Harrison
Centre for Behavioral Excellence
What Harry Potter Can Teach the Working Professional
“But Harry, never forget that what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it so. Voldemort singled you out as the person who would be most dangerous to him – and in doing so, he made you the person who would be most dangerous to him…!”
As a child, Harry Potter topped the list of my favorite fictional characters. Can you think of anything more enticing than an imaginary world run by flying wizards, magical elves and ancient goblins? In fact, it’s hard to admit, but he still tops my list of favorites. Every time I leaf through my yellowed out, dog-eared copy of Harry Potter, I feel amazed at the insights I never picked up on before. I never knew that hidden behind all the sorcery and flying beings, were tonnes of lessons in human psychology. I was captivated!
For the uninitiated, the story of Harry Potter revolves around a dark character called Voldemort and his single-minded obsession with ending the life of Harry Potter. He does this for over 25 years, simply because he believes in a prophecy that was made years before this child was born. And this belief that Voldemort held, was the sole reason for his own dramatic end. He leaves the boy no choice but to fight back, to end this reign of terror. The author, JK Rowling, shows us how Voldemort’s own belief that Harry was to be his nemesis, ultimately came true because of his own actions. His prophecy fulfils itself, because of his own strong belief in it, which then drove all of his actions.
I was astounded when I stumbled upon this amazing analogy that Rowling portrayed – the concept of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, something so talked about in Human Psychology. As I read those lines, I found myself wondering, do I have a little Voldemort growing inside of me? Is there a Harry Potter I chase ardently, so much so, that he’s sinking me slowly? Have I sometimes just written myself off because I believe so strongly that something could go wrong?
I couldn’t help but wonder – Are we, as working professionals, guilty of being Voldemorts in our own ways? And, are we persistently chasing our own imagined Harry Potters, ensuring our defeat even before we have begun?
Have you ever found yourself avoiding social interactions? For instance, “I’m not going for the team dinner, I have no friends at work”. What is this thought based on? Is it even true? It might not be. However, such a thought will make others perceive you to be indifferent and cold. By and by, you have already written yourself off and duly proceed to justify it by saying “I knew I shouldn’t have come, I have no friends at work!”
Self-Fulfilling Prophecies run deep, we tend to move toward situations that stem from the past. It could be unfinished business, or the need to do something better. We use self-fulfilling prophecies to guard ourselves from failure, disappointment or rejection. But, at the very onset, we have already established that Harry Potter is going to be the reason for our failure. We have set the wheels in motion to help fulfil our very own prophecies!
The late sociologist Robert K. Merton defined this concept as ‘’a false definition of a situation, evoking a new behavior, which makes the original false conception come true.”
Let’s take for instance, the all popular “My boss hates me!”? Very often, we fail to see helpful feedback in its true face value. Instead, we perceive it to be a personal attack on a task well done. We then justify this saying, “I was right, my boss hates me”.
It’s time we realized that this vicious cycle of negative thinking can impact our professional success to a large extent. How can we break this cycle? Is it possible to turn Voldemort back into just another fictional character and not the protagonist in our story?
Here are a few things we can begin doing immediately:
- Stop predicting failure
More often than not, we tend to look for the worst possible outcome & work towards avoiding it. By doing this, we have already forecasted failure. The first step to overcome your self-fulfilling prophecy is to realize when you make them and why.
- Expect more from yourself
The easiest way to avoid making a negative prophecy, is to catch yourself downplaying your skills. It takes no effort to undermine yourself. Instead of voicing the “I can’t do this” or “I hate that”, be practical in your views about your abilities. Focus on what you can do and how you can do it better. Once you direct yourself to the bigger picture, you will be surprised at all that you can accomplish.
- Surround yourself with positive people
We are social creatures and project what we are exposed to. Extend warmth and offer help instead of wallowing in an internal dialogue that will bring you down. You will in return, reap what you sow – the fruit of positivity.
- Learn to forgive. Being vindictive doesn’t help.
We owe ourselves a little magic, a second chance to do better. While being vindictive comes naturally to some of us, one needs to realize, that it stems from the need to self-preserve. We are very likely to create negative prophecies while we chase the idea of revenge.
- Positive self-affirmation
This is crucial for success as it ensures we have something to look forward to, and brings with it, a sense of fulfillment when it is realized. A higher sense of self – worth & value is so easy to achieve with the right mind set.
Your Voldemort’s are the prophecies you have made for yourself, that have limited your chance at success & happiness. As we author our own stories, we become responsible for these characters we create. The steps listed above can help us break out of the habit of making these grim predictions and prevent us from underestimating our own self-worth. Can you imagine the possibilities that open up, if I were to tell you – Voldemort’s is all but a fantastical tale – and the power to re-write your story truly lies with none other than you.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”