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Fortune Cookie Wisdom


Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

Can you recall the last time someone praised your work?

Discussion on the value of encouraging, non-judgmental inspirations and their affect on our well-being

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

Do you remember the last time you cracked open a fortune cookie? Those little blue and white slips, with lucky numbers filled with uplifting, motivational messages, always seem to brighten the moment. Snippets of inspiration such as “you will soon be hearing great news from someone you love” or “now is a perfect time to follow your dreams” get placed in our wallets, taped to our computer, or posted on our bulletin boards as a reminder of possibilities. These little harbingers of possible outcomes can make us think, “what if it really could happen?”

When was the last time you received an encouraging or inspiring comment from someone?

When taking a minute or two to pause and reflect on the fortune cookie’s message, you suddenly stop and realize… this may be the first affirmative message you’ve received all day! Within the hustle and bustle of looming deadlines, demanding bosses and crabby coworkers, somewhere in the vastness of space and time, this little paper has given you a boost of positive outlook and a ray of hope that things could get better. And it comes with a tasty cookie!

But this seemingly innocent and well-meaning message begs an even deeper question: What are we getting from fortune cookies messages that we may not be getting from one another? When was the last time you received an inspiring, hopeful or encouraging comment from a friend, or a compliment from a partner or spouse?  Can you recall, in your work environment, the last time someone praised your work or anyone commented on your attentiveness to detail or your dedication to doing a good job? We are bombarded with negative communications on a daily basis, and chances are, if you are like the rest of us, you tend to reflect on the more negative elements of daily life that can drag you down, rather than focusing on the highlights that can truly lift you up. 

It is said what we focus on and think about can become self-fulfilling outcomes. As it turns out, there really is some truth to the self-fulfilling prophecy theory. This works for both positive and negative outcomes. Reasonable optimism has been scientifically proven to impact nearly every aspect of our lives – from living longer to doing well on a test, to enjoying success in our work. Likewise, pessimism has been shown to contribute to feelings of depression, social withdrawal and loneliness.

Pygmalion Effect - Positive Reinforcement

Changing how to respond to life and our environments is more than just a matter of repeating a thought or a desire to yourself. As humans, we instinctively look toward others to reinforce our expectations for ourselves. This is called the Pygmalion effect.  The Pygmalion effect works two ways:  if you were conditioned as a nurse to reach for a high set of expectations, you would tend to meet those achievements. If you were held to a lower standard, you wouldn’t try as hard.

What psychology research demonstrates today with the many studies that have been conducted on positive thinking and positive reinforcement is that when we look to the positive words, events, experiences in our lives and not dwell on the negative, we are happier and healthier.

We also know that the Pygmalion effect isn’t set in stone. A little encouragement and higher expectations can yield fantastic results.  So why can we get excited by the message in a little fortune cookie rather than from the many interactions we have during our day with other people? Can a fortune cookie provide really meaningful positive communication and rewarding expectation that we all so actively seek? 

Perhaps it’s because somewhere, on some level, the fortune cookie reaffirms what we’ve always believed:  that we really can succeed, be loved, and feel wanted. The cookie message doesn’t judge us or try to tell us what to do, but rather lends positive words and support for our imagination. Have you ever seen a fortune cookie that gives bad news or advice like, “You will just to manage to get by”.

Offer Hope of Encouragement 

If you have saved a fortune cookie message, maybe take the time today to carry the fortune cookie’s ever-hopeful message to those around you. Offer some words of encouragement to a coworker who is struggling with a tough project.  Give your partner or spouse a shoulder rub and tell them how much you appreciate having them in your life.  Share moments with each of your children and let them know how great their latest artistic creation is, or how much you loved watching them perform at the ball game. 

The bottom line is, be the person who communicates just how valued others are in your life. Reinforce their deeply-held beliefs that good things will come soon. By sharing meaningful communication and hopeful affirmation with those you love, your words become a soothing balm that makes the bitter stings of the bad news and turmoil in our everyday lives not be quite as bad as they could be.  


Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and The Pygmalion Effect

Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress

Negative Communication

How a pessimistic attitude can affect your health

How optimism benefits your health

Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD, is the Director of the National Institute of Whole Health, and a health care visionary who pioneered the integration of Whole Health and Whole Person Healthcare within medical and holistic health organizations. Georgianna is one of only six Florence Nightingale Scholars in the U.S., an MNA award-winning Nurse Advocate and widely published Integrative Health expert and healthcare provider. Named “Best Integrative Healthcare Practitioner” in Boston, for 20 years she hosted the nationally syndicated, regionally Emmy nominated women’s TV programming, Woman-to-Woman®. She is currently the host of iHeart radio’s Living above the Drama which is heard globally, and an Amazon #1 Bestselling award winning author. She has been a regular contributor/writer for the Huffington Post, Dr Oz’s Share Care, Daily Strength and other national blogs.

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