The Power of Prediction

Last week I wrote about the power of hope, and specifically about my secret hope for perfectly predicting the winners of all sixty-three games in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.  As I write this column on Friday morning, there have been 52 games played in the tournament so far.  I have correctly predicted the winners of 32 of those games.  My wife, Holly, has correctly predicted 36 of the winners--a fact that she does not have any hesitancy sharing with me on a regular basis.  And as if it's not painful enough to have her playfully gloat about how far ahead of me she is in our pool, she often concludes her gloating with this question:  “Didn't you do your research on the teams before you made your picks, sweetheart?”  Based on her research she correctly picked Ohio to make the second round and Lehigh to upset Duke.  I would gladly share with you her research sources and methods, but she refuses to divulge this top secret information with me! Attempting to predict the future behavior of other people is always challenging.  This is true not just in college basketball, but in all aspects of life.  Even though we may be aware of how challenging it is to predict the future behavior of others, it's still what we do.    This is nothing more than harmless fun when it comes to March Madness, but when it comes to the rest of our lives, and especially the important relationships in our lives, the way in which we predict the future behavior of others can have very important consequences.

Take parenting for example.  Parents are predicting their children's futures all the time, whether they are consciously aware of this or not.  Think of the different impact these two predictive statements would have on a child:  “I know you are struggling right now, but I just know that you will figure this out,” and, “I can't believe you are struggling again.  Sometimes I wonder if you are ever going to get your act together.”  Two very different predictions that create two very different effects on a child, whether that child is five years old or forty years old.  I remember someone in their fifties once telling me, “As I was growing up I felt like my father was always telling me in one way or another that I wouldn't amount to much.  I spent my twenties proving to him that he was right.  But then I got help and turned my life around and have been proving him wrong ever since.”

Predicting the behaviors of others can also be harmful in our relationships with our a spouse, friend, or other significant adult in our life.    We have all probably been guilty of not sharing a new idea for positive growth and change with a spouse, friend, or colleague because we just “know” they will reject our idea.  In fact when two people are fighting, they will often say something passive aggressive like, “I was going to do something really nice for you, but I decided against it because I knew you wouldn't appreciate it!”  All relationships form patterns over time.  If we predict that these relational patterns are incapable of changing, we will usually be right.  However, if we predict that these relational patterns are capable of changing and growing, and if we are willing to make the commitment and effort to do our part in helping the change and growth occur, we will usually be right as well!

So what future predictions (conscious or subconscious) do you have for yourself and those you love right now?   Are those predictions hopeful and life-giving, or are they negative and life-draining?  Be honest.  If your predictions are hopeful and life-giving, good for you--and good for the people you love!  If your predictions are negative and life-draining, then I encourage you seek out the help of a friend, a counselor, a spiritual leader and/or a faith community to help you turn things around.  Doing so will be a wonderful gift for you and the people you love!

When it comes to predicting the winners of a basketball game, our predictions have absolutely no influence on the outcome of the game.  However, the predictions we make for ourselves and those we love, will have great influence on what comes to pass--in fact they make all the difference.  That's my prediction and I'm standing by it!