The Can-Do Spirit

candoI guess some people think
the ‘can-do’ spirit is
kinda clichéd and corny.

Not me.

I’ve seen it
in action
too many times .

one really can learn a lot
from the ancients, as well.

Pygmalion“,eliza for instance:
…….. an interesting and
illuminating character
out of Greek Literature.

( Eliza Doolittle,
played by the lovely Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady” —
was a modern spin,
George Bernard Shaw’s to be exact, on this ancient tale. )

Ovid in his Metamorphoses, X,
describes Pygmalion as a Cypriot goldsmith,
whose hobby was sculpting.

A committed bachelor,
the principle character
Pygmalion acquired a
particularly beautiful piece of ivory,
…. and started to carve the figure of a woman.

Soon, he became quite
taken with the sculpture.

1aHe subsequently attended the rites at the Festival of Venus, and made a sacrifice at the altar,

…..while quietly meditating on his wish for a bride that would be the living likeness of his ivory girl.

Upon his return, he kissed the statue, to find warmth in her lips.

He touched her breast, and felt the ivory turn to flesh.

His wish had been fulfilled by Venus.

Now, I’m sure my regular readers
are trying to guess where
I’m gonna go with this…..

And, sure it’d be easy enough
for me to get distracted.

But, this story also has several
implications for those interested
in human potential.

One is the power of love
most of Ovid’s work was
about this , in one form or another.1914

I am a true believer in this power, but it’s not really
our topic today, either.

and the one we will talk about here, is the power of belief .

We know, of course,
that Ovid’s story is fiction, sure.

It is, however, useful in explaining the principle using symbolic language.

It also demonstrates why the phenomenon
of raised-expections-equals-improved-results
is referred to as the ” Pygmalion Effect ” .

And, the intervention of a Greek Goddess
is not always necessary to see this effect in action.

( Although, getting some coaching
from Venus sounds pretty fun to me )

There is a common adage among
those interested in the study of
human potential which is
called the “Thomas Theorem”
( after Sociologist D.S. Thomas ) :

If men define situations
as real, they are real
in their consequences

In terms of group dynamics,
this means that a expectations
group of people,
sharing a mass belief,
modify aspects of their
environment to bring the
environment more in line
with their belief.

An easy way of seeing this principle is:
Thomas Merton’s famous example
of a ‘run on the bank’.

At the beginning of the day,
the bank was solvent, with
enough assets to cover their usual needs.

But, something triggers a
large group of withdrawals,
and once this is observed,
others also withdraw their money,
causing rumors of insolvency,
which of course, causes more
and more withdrawals, until….

…………………… the prediction finally becomes the reality.

Brokesville, man.montypython

People taking dives off of high buildings, and all that.

There goes Parkinson, now.

Very messy.

what bearing does this
have on the individual ?

William James, in his
“The Will to Believe” expressed
the idea of self-validation of a positive belief.

One who believes something must happen,
— will be more effective in MAKING it happen.

Every human personality expectations
has many component facets..
……. one part having some
degree of independence,
but also some degree of interaction and dependence with others.

Not to get totally carried
away with the technical mumbo-jumbo of it,

These are roughly categorized
into “personality dimensions” –

1: “Openness” — this dimension would include imagination, creativity, and insight.

2: “Extraversion” — this dimension includes social amenity, expression, and assertiveness.

3: “Agreeability” — includes affection, kindness, altruism, and trust.

4: “Conscientiousness” — includes motivation, drive, organization and goal direction.

5: “Neuroticism” — includes emotional reactivity, sadness, anxiety, and polarity.

Every person has each of these dimensions in their personality,
albeit at different strengths and levels of dominance or influence.

And all of these dimensions
are at work as you perform
throughout the day,sailors

……… each feeding off each other, and all interacting to produce a state of mind and level of functionality.

Think of it as a chemical reaction..

…add a teaspoon of a 3% percent solution of this,
and a tablespoon of that,
and you get one result…

…add a cup of a 6%
percent solution of this,
and a dash of that,
and your result is much different.

Sorta like how I cook…

Sometimes the results are inedible.a

Which brings us back to the student model of the Pygmalion Effect .

How did the raised expectations of the teachers affect student performance?

Well, if you think of the above personality dimensions as having been permanently
defined from birth, it would
be an impossibility, right?

That theory would mandate that what capacities and personality facets you were born with were what you would have to work with.

And we all know that isn’t so.

These personality aspects are in constant flux.

Their levels change,
and so do their dominance
in the personality hierarchy, if you will.


One can see how
this amalgam of characteristics might function very much like the people in the bank….

…….. and bringing about an end that none of them by themselves could have.

That’s where the principles of the self-fulfilling prophecy and creative visualization come in.

Now, no one is saying that a person might modify, for instance, the course of a comet through the force of his will.

It’s not about that.

If that was the case,
all I would have to do to
get Valerie Bertinelli hot for me
would be to think about it hard enough.

And she isn’t even taking
my calls at this point.


What we are saying is that you can have more control over your interactions with your daily environment, by directing your personality dimensions toward a positive self fulfilling prophecy.

Simply put, by concentrating on a desired goal, and by visualizing yourself achieving that goal, you direct your mind- to start working toward it.

The more you concentrate upon it,
the more directed you become.success

Try it with a short term goal you’ve been meaning to achieve.

Spend a couple minutes -every morning- visualizing you achieving your goal.
A few minutes more before bed–
(with or without Valerie)
visualize it.

If you stay with it,
… you’ll find yourself in a situation
very shortly where you can’t help but achieve it.

Then, put the principle to work for longer term goals.

The most important aspect of it is to simply reinforce your goal commitment every morning and evening.

I can’t promise your ivory statue will turn into a real girl,
or Miss Bertinelli,
…. but I can promise you that your more realistic goals will become much easier to attain.

And that, truly, is a gift of the gods .

!!!! HOY !!!!!



8 thoughts on “The Can-Do Spirit

  1. dievca says:

    I am eternally optimistic, I don’t expect things to go wrong….and they don’t. Maybe luck or maybe I work toward them going right. “Can do”

  2. ktz2 says:

    Nice job, C–excellent well-thought-out post offering a lot to think about

  3. Mrs Fever says:

    The laws of attraction. (In Pygmalion’s case, the attraction was quite physical indeed. 😉 )

    I’m absolutely with you on this one. It’s why people who work toward what they want – consistently and determinedly – typically GET what they want.

    And those who believe they “can’t” __________, WON’T.

    Self-fulfilling prophecies work both ways.

  4. The power of positive thinking, mind over matter. The fellow I worked for in high school believed in “mind over matter”, we did so many things that I would have thought impossible. I still believe it and say it before any project.

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