Fitness Goals, The Matrix And The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
One of my favourite – and, in my humble but honest opion, greatest films of all time – is ‘The Matrix’.
I’ve seen that film more times than a pubescent teen has browsed……. well, I think you know where I was going with that ….
So anyways, the other day I’m sat watching The Matrix (the first one) for the umpteenth time and I realised something that :
- Totally blew my mind
- I had never realised on previous viewings
It was the scene where Neo meets the Oracle for the first time.
You see, all this time I had thought it was the Oracle who told Neo he wasn’t ‘the one’ but when I rewatched it this time, I realised she, in fact, did not – Neo, himself, says ‘I’m not the one’.
Oh, you’re probably wondering why this is such a big deal, and more importantly what this has to do with your fitness and looking- good- naked goals.
Allow me to explain.
The Self Fulfilling Prophecy
In Greek mythology there’s a popular story of a sculptor named Pygmalion.
The story goes something like this : Pygmalion carves a statue of a beautiful woman out of ivory. The woman (statue) turns out to be so beautiful that Pygmalion falls in love with it (her?). Pygmalion believes so deeply that his sculpted creation is real, that eventually the statue comes to life.
While the story of Pygmalion is just that – a story – it illustrates perfectly a real life phenomenon sociologists have termed : ‘The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy’ (or the Pygmalion effect – after the helpless lover and semi-weirdo).
The self-fulfilling prophecy is the name of a strange phenomenon wherein if people believe something to be true, it becomes true, even if the original belief was false.
Under achievers Vs. High Achievers
One of the most famous studies that has been done on The Self-fulfilling prophecy (SFP) was called ‘Pygmalion In The Classroom’.
Dr. Robert Rosenthal, a Harvard professor, collected results of over 300 studies showing SFP in action.
The experiment looked like this :
- Groups of children were divided into two classes.
- One class was given to a teacher who was told that the students were high achievers and should do well.
- The second class was given to the other teacher who was told that her class was composed of underachievers who needed special help.
Now the kids that were used in these studies were all at the same level of intellect and ability. However, by the end of the school year the class that had been labelled ‘high-achievers’ was doing better than the class labelled ‘underachievers’.
The study found that people will live up to the expectations placed on them by subconsciously changing their actions to align with the belief they have (or have not) been given. In the case of the school children, the teachers who were told they were dealing with ‘underachievers’ went in with a negative view of the class and even though the children were not ‘underachievers’ at the start, by the end became so because of the teacher’s actions towards them.
Was Neo Really The One ?
Going back to The Matrix and the Oracle scene, It got me thinking ; was Neo really the one or did the Oracle *prime* him to become the one by employing SFP?
Let’s take a look at the dialogue that occurs :
The Oracle: But you already know what I’m going to tell you.
Neo: I’m not The One.
Neo doesn’t believe he is ‘The One’, so he isn’t.
But the next scene is the turning point in the film. This is where Neo begins his metaphysical transformation.
The Oracle: Are you sure you want to hear this? Morpheus believes in you, Neo. And no one, not you, not even me can convince him otherwise. He believes it so blindly that he’s going to sacrifice his life to save yours.
The Oracle: You’re going to have to make a choice. In the one hand you’ll have Morpheus’ life and in the other hand you’ll have your own. One of you is going to die. Which one will be up to you.
The Oracle understands human nature (I mean, she’d be a pretty lame Oracle if she didn’t). She realises that if she had simply told him ‘yep, you’re the one’, it would have most likely bred complacency.
Let’s flip the script for a second.
Imagine, if you will, that the oracle had told Neo he was the one, do you think he would have gone after the agents to save Morpheus? Probably not. It would have been too risky for them to risk saving Morpheus knowing that Neo was the one, they had to finish their mission.
But the events that happened during the Morpheus rescue made Neo begin to believe that he was the one. He needed a *sign* and the Oracle – in a very, mind-fuckish sort of way – gave that to him.
The Oracle used Morpheus’ coming demise as the ‘trigger’ that paved the way for Neo’s ascension to Onedom.
It was the beginning of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Everything that happens after – like the classically epic scene where Neo dodges bullets – is simply re-affirming Neo’s belief that he is in fact ‘The One’
So now the question is :
Was Neo actually the One?
Did he ‘become’ ‘The One’ because he believed himself into fulfilling that role ?
Regardless of what the truth may be, the bottom line is that Neo becoming the one came down to his own belief. Everything else was a distant third. Even if he had been the one from the prophecy, until he didn’t believe it himself, he would never have unlocked his potential.
Like Henry Ford once famously said ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t. You’re right’
Mindset Is Everything
The number one reason people fail their fitness goals?
The wrong diet?
The wrong workout programme ?
The wrong gymwear ?…… Well, even though poor choice of gym swag can be detrimental.
If you start your fitness journey fully believing you can achieve your fitness goals, you’re already half way there, everything else comes as a byproduct of the positive mindset you’ve cultivated.
In the wise words of Morpheus : ‘You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.
How To Harness This Power
1. Check Yo’ Self
We have roughly 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day. Most of these are on ‘auto-pilot’ and are a reflection of us reacting to certain events. Monitoring your self-talk and ensuring it’s congruent to your goals is a must.
If you’re constantly thinking negative thoughts and telling yourself how you can’t stick to a diet, or you can’t achieve X goal. That will become your reality.
Every time you start to have a negative thought. Stop, breathe and replace it with a positive affirmation instead.
Instead of ‘I struggle with dieting’, reframe that as ‘dieting is just another challenge I have to overcome’.
One puts you down the dark road of negativity and choicelessness, the other empowers you as you’ve now given yourself a choice to be able to overcome the challenge of dieting.
2. Control Who And What You Let In (Environment)
As the famous saying goes ‘you are the sum of the 5 people you surround yourself with’. If your clique is comprised of negative nancies who aren’t going anywhere in life, and bring others down, this will manifest into your own life.
Agent Smith is a perfect example of this. He goes around bullying others and transferring his own negativity to them ; in the process they also become Agent’s. Stay away from the Agent Smiths’ in your own life.
‘The sum of 5’ transcends the people you see face to face, with the rise of social media, if you’re newsfeed is full of people complaining and being negative this also will have an impact on you.
Don’t bother with the ‘gossip of the day’. Focus on you and your goals.
At the beginning of the film, Neo is given a choice between the red pill and the blue pill. Just like the choice Neo was given, you also have a choice in life. You can either be negative and complain about the small things, or you can let it slide and focus on the positives instead.
The ‘pill’ you decide to choose, is the rabbit hole you will go down.
Negativity? The further down the negative rabbit hole you go.
Positivity? The further down the positive rabbit hole you go.
4. Fake It ‘Till You Make It
As cliche as this may be, it’s true. The key to this is visualisation. If you can visualise yourself already having achieved the body you want and rocking that six pack on the beach at the awe of the ladies – this will help you stay motivated and keep your mind focussed on what you need to do.
There’s a great line in the movie once Neo is initiated into the Matrix. Morpheus asks him if he believes in ‘fate’. Neo responds with ‘No. I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.’
This brings me to the biggest takeaway :
You’re in charge of your own destiny, goals and life. While I won’t guarantee that SFP will have you stopping bullets with your mind, harnessing the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy will have you on your way to achieving your own goals and living life on your terms.
And that’s pretty badass, bro.