Expectations. I would expect that everyone has an idea on the meaning of the word expectation(s). I mean, we all use the word. We all have expectations. Expectations are attached to us all, by ourselves, and by others. Expectation is everywhere really.
Here are some meanings of the word expectations:
- a confident belief or strong hope that a particular event will happen
- a mental image of something expected, often compared to its reality
- a standard of conduct or performance expected by or of somebody
I would even go so far as to say that in many cases we expect based on our own judgement. We see, we think (maybe less than we should), we judge, we expect. Maybe the word judge is wrong. But I don’t think it is. I will use the word, assess, for now. We assess things/people based on all we have ever seen and heard prior to now and we instantly set an expectation on what we see now, in front of us based on the prior accumulation of information. Something like that anyways. Maybe we have tremendous experience in an area or a subject, maybe we are even proficient in the area, and perhaps the foremost authority on the subject matter, which means that if anyone is qualified to make an assessment, or to set an expectation, maybe it’s you or me. Assuming all of that was true, isn’t it great how many times we get something we don’t expect? Or better yet, our expectations are exceeded.
Who teaches us to expect? Who teaches us what to expect? Why do we feel limited as to what we can expect from ourselves? Why do so many people feel like they aren’t living, or haven’t lived up to expectations? Well this could get pretty deep and I don’t know that I am the one to lead this blog piece into the depths it probably requires, but I am going to take a run at some things here.
From the time we are born we are taught. We learn about everything in life from someone else or from what we are allowed to gather on our own. Nearly everything is taken at face value. It’s similar to the dog who is happy to see you come home everyday. Little seems to matter as to what has happened in the last 24 hours, as long as you come home today. The dog will be happy to see you.
As we grow and hear more and more yes’s and no’s, we start to shape thoughts for ourselves. We explore. We find limitations and curtail our actions based on the knowledge we accumulate as we go. Face value becomes more like reading the stock market and some things are valued too high while others are devalued, all based on the knowledge (or in some cases, the lack of knowledge) we have at the time.
Many, many times we replace our own experience or first-hand knowledge with information that has been told or taught to us. Now depending on the source of those telling or teaching us, this information may be fact, but it also may just be opinion. This is where experience can come in real handy. Because the further down life’s road we venture basing expectations on information we haven’t experienced first-hand or information based on someone else’s opinions, the more likely our chances of accurately assessing anything at face value will decrease. You may say big deal, so our expectations will be off, so we will always be surprised. Well it is a big deal. Think of what life would be like if your expectations were constantly not close to what happens in reality. You wouldn’t know what to expect of yourself in given situations because of how many times your expectations of anything else were off-base. It’s important to have a clue on this for sanity sake and to limit the number of emotional roller-coaster rides anyone of us has to deal with. Speaking of roller-coasters, let’s see if I can get back on track here.
Okay, I love to coach kids in sports. Sports offer an opportunity to teach many valuable life lessons while kids enjoy the fun and competition of sport. I am not the world’s best coach, any of you who know me would probably beat me to that statement. One of the things I have enjoyed, and still enjoy about coaching, is the belief in the kids. The expectation that they will succeed. For some, succeeding is being better than others. For some, succeeding is being better than you thought you were. For some, succeeding is participating in the sport and putting yourself on the line that you are working to improve. To me they’re all success stories, but each individual has their own expectation of one’s performance, just as I do. If you never give the kids a chance to succeed because your brain or ego get in the way, you’ll never experience the joy of kids coming through more times than they don’t.
Here are some examples of people defying expectations. Some are more dramatic or more memorable than others. But the size and scope of this aren’t what is important here, the lesson is in each of these. Big or small. Important or barely noticeable. They all matter. Every day we face some form of this. Every day we expect of others or we are expected of …
There was a skinny little kid who looked like he didn’t belong in a men’s game. He didn’t dress the part. He didn’t look the part. He sure could play the part though. He wore floppy socks and had sleepy eyes, but he left college basketball as the all-time leading scorer in just 3 seasons of play. Imagine what his numbers would be were freshmen allowed to play varsity sports back then. He was “Pistol” Pete Maravich and face value would not have told us what was in store for the world of basketball had we not seen it for ourselves.
There was a dumpy dressed shy kid with long hair. He was overweight and quite self-conscious about his size. He showed up on stage only because his kid partner gave him just enough confidence to go for it. When the glitz and glamour of the world they pursued laughed at the sight of these two misfits on stage they could have packed it in right there. The judges held back their own laughter and almost in an underhanded way, wished them luck as they hoped this joke would soon be over. Then they started to sing. And within seconds, the crowd went crazy. The judges couldn’t contain their wide-eyed surprise of their own error in assessment of face value. It’s a fun clip to watch. It’s The Opera duet of Charlotte and Jonathan. I love Jonathan’s closing line before the judges vote.
There was a team of college kids who weren’t expected to even compete with the best teams in the world. These guys were a collection of some good college hockey players, but in a communist dominated sport at the time, they weren’t even on the same map. They played a tough 61-game exhibition schedule to get ready for the Olympics. They were dominated by the Soviet Union in the last of those exhibition games in a contest that wasn’t even as close as the lopsided 10-3 score would indicate. Yet, the seventh seeded Team USA went undefeated in the 1980 Winter Games and won the Gold Medal. This will be forever known as the Miracle on Ice.
She was born prematurely. She was constantly sick as a child. She had extreme difficulties with her legs and had to wear a brace. Doctors even told her she would never walk again. Face value would tell us this is a sad story of a poor sick kid who doesn’t even warrant this much of a story. Reality told the story of a superstar. Wilma Rudolph went on to win 3 Gold Medals in the 1960 Summer Games. She was known as the fastest woman in history in the early 60’s. She is an American Legend.
This young man showed up on stage as a lonely, homeless Korean boy. The judges didn’t know what to expect as they asked him questions about his life leading to this moment. It’s fun to watch when the people ‘in the know’ don’t expect much of anything from someone who has overcome so much more than what’s being asked of them in that moment. Their guard goes up, they brace for the worst, but they have to participate because this person is there in front of them. Then they hear Sung Bong Choi sing. The voice brings raw emotion out of people expecting the worst. No matter the language, the human ear tells the human mind, this is beautiful, and expect to enjoy it. Maybe it’s just another popular clip that has circled through social networks. I like it for the fact that beauty arises from something not beautiful, and exceptional happens where sub par was expected.
There are countless examples of expectations falling short of what unfolded next. There are also just as many times when expectations were higher than what reality would bear.
… All I can say is this. Give your best effort, no one should expect more than that. If expectations are greater than that of your best effort, so be it. You can’t do more than your best. Likewise, when faced with opportunities to expect of others, remember what you have learned, but understand that you’ll never know it all or see it all. Maybe err on the side of compassion, allowing the story, you assume you already know based on what you see, to be told by actual performance or by the individual who lived it.