L3: Release Your Expectations

When I sat down at my desk this morning, I confronted my lengthy list detailing what I expected to achieve today. I also have many running lists in my head of what I plan to achieve with certain projects and in certain timeframes.

With such rigid expectations for every moment of every day, I am potentially missing out on miracles. I may not notice the birds chirping, children peacefully playing, and beautiful sunset if I am absorbed in my relatively narrow vision for the day. I might also miss out on opportunities to expand my vision and goals, engage in transformative conversation with another person, or participate in a wondrous experience.

Being flexible prepares us to be open to new ideas and opportunities along our path. We sometimes feel attached to our goals or to the process we have chosen to achieve those goals. As we invite universal wisdom to inspire us, we may find it necessary to eliminate or change our goals. Things often do not end up the way we expect; many times, the situation revealed is even better than what we had imagined. Accept the outcomes and consequences with love and humility.

Go with the flow. Resist attempting to control outcomes and other people; this exercise in futility will lead us to feel frustrated and disappointed. Focus your energy on those things you can control – your thoughts, feelings, actions, and, to some extent, your environment.

Keeping an open heart and mind allows us to see unknowns for what they truly are – exciting possibilities. As life evolves our purpose becomes more clear and we become more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.

Goals are not bad; in fact, they are very helpful tools! When you set goals, ensure that they are aligned with both your deepest convictions and your wildest dreams. Monitor your progress toward your goals and reevaluate their legitimacy and usefulness on a regular basis. Allow yourself to be influenced by your experiences, other people, and inner wisdom that emerges. Plan your path, engage support, set your intention, and see what happens. If things don’t work out as anticipated, feel confident in the knowledge that you have the power to change your goals and be comforted by the wisdom you have absorbed along the way.

L3: Set High Expectations

I love movies about teachers. One of my favorites is The Marva Collins Story.  It was through this movie that I was introduced to a phenomenal teacher from Chicago who believed in her students’ ability to excel in school and in life despite the distractions of difficult a home life or learning ability labels. In her book Ordinary Children, Extraordinary Teachers, Mrs. Collins states, “students like to be pushed. They want to do well. They want to succeed. And once they have a taste of it, they will never again settle for mediocrity.”

Like students, our coworkers hold the promise of the future. Part of our job as leaders is to help them realize this both internally and externally. When sharing ongoing feedback about employee performance, collaboratively set goals that reflect an expectation of excellence.

Our organization and community can also benefit from setting high expectations. When we envision and work toward an alternative future, its fulfillment is expedited by continually raising the bar as we achieve progressively more complex goals. Create a synergy among personal, organizational, and community goals through open communication and mutual support.

High expectations are not equivalent to unsubstantiated wishes. While it is important to always keep your vision of the change you wish to create at the forefront, recognize that the process of everyday life, and the needs of others, may not coalesce with your personal desires. Set expectations based on what you can reasonably foresee accomplishing based on your experience and wisdom. Break goals down into manageable tasks and engage the support and resources that are needed.  Hold yourself and others accountable every step of the way.  Raise the bar whenever a goal is achieved.

Reality does not usually catch up to our expectations in the way or on the schedule that we choose. Whenever this happens, reevaluate your goal to determine if it is truly in your organization or community’s best interest. Examine the strategies and tactics that were employed and make adjustments to improve your probability of success. Be patient and have faith that, in time, things will work out for the best. Remember that you can not always control the outcome, but you can control your input as well as your reaction to the outcome.

They say that people live up to their expectations. When we expect mistakes, obstacles, and failure, we create an environment of despondency. When we actively create a supportive environment that celebrates hopes, possibilities, and dreams, we create the conditions for personal and organizational success.