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Expectation versus Effort - The Battle Continues

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How many times have your expectations of yourself and others been unfulfilled? Were those expectations realistic? Were you prepared for the effort needed to reach the expectations you desired for yourself? How did you react in the aftermath of not meeting those expectations? Did you take ownership for the outcome, or blame someone or something else as the ultimate cause? In regard to your expectation of others, how often have you projected your own expectations of them on to them? How did that work out? Personally and professionally the emotional fallout and resulting stress from unrealized expectations can be significant. Realistic expectations begin with the understanding that there is a direct correlation between the kind of life you expect and how accountable you have been for your past, are for your present and will be for your future.

You are also more likely to reach your expectations when how you conduct your life is aligned with the core values you believe in. For example, if there have been past behaviors that you are ashamed of and were not aligned with your values, but fail to correct those behaviors when the next similar situation arises, expecting a positive outcome is unrealistic. Any change you desire takes energy, effort, commitment and personal accountability. False expectations occur when what you expect is not congruent with the effort, or the aligned values needed to fulfill that expectation. As Theodore Roosevelt stated, “It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.”

Noni, my beautiful wife of 33 years this past month, decided to return to school beginning this year to challenge herself, and broaden her life’s tool kit. Although she had already received her degree in the past, she desired a new challenge. Her expectations were high of herself, yet anxious not knowing what to expect from a new academic endeavor, especially after so many years removed from being a student. The experience has been challenging, but her willingness and work ethic to put forth the effort in her schoolwork and reach her expectations has been remarkable and rewarding. Her effort, and in turn academic success, has enhanced her own sense of personal value and respect, and has gained the admiration of family and friends. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” Simply, to expect a fulfilling life without effort is like expecting a fulfilling meal without adequate preparation.

Other factors that contribute to the success of your efforts and ultimate expectations include your attitude, having the internal belief and passion that you can succeed, taking ownership for the decisions you are making, having the perseverance to follow through with your decisions, and making a concerted commitment to manage your time effectively in the process. A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson states, “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.” Without enthusiasm there is apathy, and with apathy there is stagnation. To be stagnant is to be lifeless in an attempt to reach any expectation you may have of yourself and others.

To expect a better life without effort can also create a belief pattern that quickly deteriorates self-respect, because you become less involved in your own future. Applying this thought beyond oneself you will quickly notice an increasing social trend where many whine about their unfulfilled expectations, rather then apply the necessary effort to reach them. When personal accountability is not taken for a lack of effort, it appears to be customary to blame someone else for unhappiness and a lack of fulfillment. Promoting and being an example of personal accountability is key to thwarting such a social trend. As a society, to not reinforce an understanding of the connection between effort and reaching expectations will only result in a less productive citizenry and a growing victim mentality. Those who expect much without much effort have little chance to experience the full potential of themselves, and the full experience of the world around them.


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