As youth, most of us begin reacting to others’ expectations of us before we fully form our expectations of ourselves. A key part of “growing up” is our formulation of the latter — what we expect of ourselves… My young life provided numerous examples of negative expectations, to which I reacted negatively, leading to disappointing results… Fortunately, there were also positive expectations, to which I usually reacted in ways of which I could be proud… Along the way, I realized that my own expectations — for myself — outweighed it all.
Negative Expectation, Disappointing Behavior
Okay, maybe not THIS bad 🙂
During my ninth grade year, a friend and I decided to cut a class. We got caught (surprise, surprise :-)). Before turning us in to the vice principal, the teacher of the class pulled my friend and I aside. He briefly surveyed us visually, then turned to my friend and said, “I expected more of you” … Whoa. I didn’t admit it at the time; but that comment, as well as that which went unsaid to me, cut deeply. As a coping mechanism, I checked out from that point on. To my own detriment, I found myself unable to absorb anything that guy said. Once football season was over, I skipped school altogether, on several occasions simply to avoid attending that class. I passed the class, because our grades were based solely on tests; and I typically did well on tests. Had class participation counted for anything, I would’ve been in trouble.
I’ll bet I know what you’re thinking 🙂 … My behavior, in this case, wasn’t great to begin with… While this is true, higher expectations may have helped me turn in the right direction. In support of my theory, I submit another example from the same time period.
Positive Expectation, Constructive Behavior
During the same school year, another of my teachers (my English teacher) and I got off to a rocky start. On the very first day of class, as he gave an overview of the course — and his expectations 🙂 — I whispered something to the kid next to me. I can’t remember what I whispered, or even to whom I whispered it; but I clearly remember what happened next. The teacher requested my immediate presence in the hallway. When we were in the hallway, he closed the door and had some choice words for me. I responded with some choice words of my own. He poked me in the chest, and I blew up. I don’t know if I could’ve handled him, physically, at that stage of my life; but I was certainly ready to try. Fortunately for all involved, he thought better of it and directed me to follow him to the vice principal’s office.
Yuh… At that time, at least in my hometown, teachers still hit kids on occasion. LOL, I know it’s terrible; but I have to laugh when I compare it to the way things are today. Can you imagine the backlash if a teacher called a student into the hallway today and poked him in the chest???
When we arrived at the vice principal’s office, the teacher informed the vice principal that he would not again have me in his class. The vice principal advised us both that his was the only English class available, so his class was the only option (LOL). I returned to his class the next day, kept my mouth shut, paid attention and did my assignments.
About one week into the class, we were given our first writing assignment. I did the assignment and handed it in, as instructed. When he returned our marked up papers, I was surprised to find constructive criticism as well as encouraging words. I was surprised on several fronts:
- I assumed he hated my guts, and I assumed that matter of preference would dictate every interaction between us.
- I never considered that I might have a talent/knack for any type of communication, written or otherwise.
- Even though I still wasn’t certain whether he hated me or not, I felt an inexplicable desire to do an even better job on the next assignment… I had no idea what it would be, but I was looking forward to it. Up until that point, I’d NEVER looked forward to ANY school assignment.
When we were assigned the next paper, I worked with a craftsman’s mentality. My paper would represent what I’d learned and show what I could do — not only to him, but to myself, as well. When I got the paper back, I was surprised, yet again. There was constructive criticism followed by words that I can still envision today.
“I enjoy reading your work.” — by the first teacher that led me to take pride in my schoolwork.
I held my head high, and my chest grew a size that day… That was followed by yet another new notion……. I didn’t want to let him down. He had high expectations of me. I resolved to never disappoint him… To this day, there is nothing that drives me more than the desire to honor, with my best effort, those who place faith in me.
I wonder if Mr. Hazlett (sp) realized the magnitude these experiences had — and continue to have — on my life.
Expecting More of Ourselves
It’s great when people expect great things of us. It’s better, and even more powerful, when we expect great things of ourselves… By “expect”, I don’t simply mean “hope”. Expectation is about more than that. Expectation is also about vision. To truly expect something of ourselves, we need to put real thought into, make real plans for, and take actual steps toward our goals. To have high expectations of ourselves is not to kid ourselves.
Given this basis for expectations, we can still expect great achievement. Some of our plans may be fuzzy, as achievement is usually accompanied by learning new things. We can plan as we know how, take steps as we are able, learn and continue raising the bar.
If you are one who believes that high expectations set the stage for disappointment, consider whether the examples of expectations that bring this thought to your mind were heavy on aspiration, yet light on vision, planning and steps toward goals.
Expecting More of Those Who Seek Our Direction
I hope, at this point, that this is a no-brainer. If we truly want to help someone to achieve great things, we must make clear to them that we have high expectations. If we clarify what those expectations are, why we have them, and on what those expectations are based, we have much greater chances of helping those who seek our direction to reach their full potential.
” High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation” — Jack Kinder
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