By Mark E. Smith
At this writing, my daughter is in her first week of the 10th grade. It’s unquestionably the most pivotal point in her academic career – and, make no mistake, the expectations are set high.
See, the 10th grade is where colleges begin looking at grade-point averages, curriculum, and extra-curricular activities toward college admissions – and, again, make no mistake, their expectations are set high, where they want the best of the best.
However, it’s really not the universities’ expectations that matter; rather, it’s my daughter’s expectations that matter. My daughter’s self-expectations will determine how well her school year – and ultimately all of high school – goes toward college admissions. So, wisely, she has set her expectations high, too. Her grade-point average can’t be below 3.8 and, ideally, should be a perfect 4.0 or higher (honors classes can increase it). Her expectations aren’t to cruise through high school with no forethought, but to expect nothing less than to remain at the top of her class.
Yet, here’s what’s interesting about my daughter: She’s not an intellectual genius or such – just a regular 15-year-old who happens to know that whatever expectations she sets create her success.
It’s truly a lesson for all of us: What we expect is typically what we achieve. Set low expectations for yourself, and you’ll receive dismal results. Set high expectations for yourself and you’ll achieve amazing results. My great-grandmother always said, “It’s just as easy to love a good man as it is a bad man, so why not love a good man?” Really, she was hitting at the heart of self-expectation – what you pursue is what you get, so pursue the best.
In the disability realm, I can tell you for a fact that self-expectations play the single largest role toward successful living. I’ve known those with the severest of disabilities, and those with minor disabilities – and while physicality should dictate that those with more severe disabilities should have a tougher plight, that those with minor disabilities should be more successful, it simply doesn’t prove true. We see some with minor disabilities wallowing in life, while those with sever disabilities achieve amazing success. It becomes evident, then, that the single key factor between success and failure is self-expectation. If one with a minor disability believes one’s life is over, it is – low self-expectation achieve low results. However, if one with high self-expectations believes one can accomplish anything, one can – again, high self-expectations accomplish high results.
The key, then, is for all of us to look at each aspect of our lives, and ask ourselves the vital question of, Am I setting my expectations high enough? I mean, Am I pursuing the career I’m capable of; am I pursuing the relationships I’m worth of; am I being the best parent that I can be? Most importantly, Am I setting my expectations high enough in all aspects of my life to achieve the high results I’m worthy of and that those around me deserve?
Of course, increasing our self-expectations can be scary at first. If we expect little, then there’s no risk of disappointment, right? Going back to my daughter, if she had low expectations toward her grades, a D wouldn’t matter. However, because her expectations are to achieve a 3.8 grade-point average or better, a D would be devastating. But, setting low expectations to avoid feelings of failure is flawed logic. Sure, if you have low expectations, you’re less likely to be disappointed by any failure; yet, that’s only because you’re setting yourself up for failure! Setting high self-expectations may seem like a risk for failure – and it sometimes can be in the short term – but in the long term, it’s the only true guarantee for success. Again, what we expect plays a key role in what we achieve, so simply raising our self-expectations – and putting effort toward it, of course – will bring success. Put simply, there’s nothing but risk in low expectations, as we will fail; however, there’s virtually no risk in high expectations because it ensures success at some level.
Let us each raise our self-expectations in all aspects of our lives, and live to those standards. Why? Because we’re each worth it.