Family Magazine

Greater Expectations

By Michelle Merritt @michellemerritt
Greater Expectations

I have a sign in my office that I liberated from an old workspace during a move.

It says: "Raise your expectations: Nobody Rises to Low Expectations."

The quote comes from motivation speaker Les Brown and it's a reminder that we need to constantly raise the bar for ourselves. If our standards are low, our expectations are low. Sure, we might be satisfied with results that are 'meh' at best but it's not a recipe for doing your best. So by raising your expectations of yourself, you aim to do better.

But what about when you don't measure up to your expectations- what happens then? From personal experience, I'd tell you a lot of self-loathing, impostor syndrome, and a host of other issues tend to crop up. Nobody can beat you up nearly as good as your own inner monologue.

Now that's just expectations of yourself. Apply this to others such as your team, your co-workers, your organization and you'll quickly run into the same trap. You fail to measure up, so obviously you suck.

But we can keep higher standards without the nasty logical side-effects by remembering another, even older maxim about expectations from the Greek poet Archilochus:

"We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training"

Anything we want to master involves a lot of practice that moves us from novice to expert. The more you practice, the more instinctive and habitual expert-level responses are. So while we might not reach the level of performance we hope to each time, we'll more often than not perform at the skill level have achieved through dedicated and consistent practice.

Perhaps it's my background in education and coaching but I believe most everything we do can be broken down into a learning experience. When you frame your expectations in light of this, you see our standards aren't rules to smack our knuckles with but are ways to measure our progress. Expectations are the ladder we climb to get better at what we do.

Each time we climb towards our top most goal we do it by focusing on each habit, step, and system. We're investing in getting better each day and life is too short to play a safe game that stays put. We climb to our goal, we fall, then we climb again. By investing in ourselves we find that each time we fall it's never as far as it was when we started. As we rise towards our expectations, we find they rise along with us as well.

So to raise your expectations, start by working on the assets you have with you- your talents, your attitude, your skills, your whole life. Train them and they will take you where you need to go.

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