Elevate Your Expectations
From the time you’re born expectations arise. Parents insist on you to behave accordingly as a child, your teachers require you to do well in class and go to college, then comes a successful career. While that’s a fine path for some, many psychologists believe that our society has gone to extremes setting up high expectations in young people. Sometimes to the point where the label of failure overshadows smaller achievements along the way. There are billions of people in this world and not every path should be the same, how boring would that be? The pressure to live up to the expectations of society can be daunting and even detrimental to your personal growth. Not every human should be shuffled down the same path, some folks have amazing abilities that having nothing to do with the expectations of society, parents or peers.
Personally, I struggle with expectations because I tend to set them high for myself and the people in my life. In the past, that has set me up for disappointment. I’ve had to learn to adjust those expectations to help myself celebrate the wins instead of dwelling on things that didn’t materialize how I desired. This is especially true in my career. Being a mentor and motivator for a group of people who all have different skills and personalities, I’ve learned to help others set a standard of excellence without dwelling on failure. Failure is a part of the process; anticipate challenges, so you will be prepared to give it another try.
In 2004 I moved my family from New Jersey to California. One day I saw a post card for Mount Whitney, I had no idea this extraordinary mountain was only a few hours away. I was so excited to start researching and set a date to hike to the summit. My initial expectations were that I was athletic enough and I have experience mountaineering, so it would be a fun adventure but nothing I couldn’t handle. When I was researching Mount Whitney I learned at 14,505ft it is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. I was even more surprised to hear that the success rate of making it all the way to the peak was only 30 percent! Compare that to 45 percent success at Mount Everest. I knew my goal was achievable, but I certainly had to adjust my expectations when preparing to summit. There were many opportunities for things to go wrong along the way including altitude sickness, fatigue, severe injury, and worse…I have always pushed myself to strive be faster and stronger, but that mindset wasn’t enough to get me to the peak. I had to expect for there to be immense challenges so I would be prepared to face them head on; and not have to set myself too far back to where I couldn’t summit at all.
The date came and it was time to climb! As I pushed farther up to the summit, I came upon a sign that said, “The mountain will still be here, don’t expect to be rescued.” Though that truly did scare me, it was also a motivating reminder to keep grounded and prepare for the unexpected. It was telling me to be safe and smart but, if I get myself in an unsafe situation, to be realistic and not to endanger others because I pushed myself too far. There are multiple difficult checkpoints you must make before that final push for the summit. I decided to take it slow and steady. I was determined to make it to the top! My ego was urging me to go faster, to not let people pass me on the trail, to be the leader of the pack! I remembered if I didn’t pace myself, I could succumb to altitude sickness or fatigue easily. Then came the “99 Switchbacks”, the seemingly endless zig-zag trail to the top that rises 1700ft in less than a mile. My inner voice was nervously telling me that maybe I couldn’t make it? I went slower than I normally would because I was so afraid of my body failing from exhaustion. Even top athletes had thrown in the towel but I remembered I expected this on my journey. I was prepared to meet this challenge because I had paced myself along the way and I would make those last few miles to the peak! As I hiked farther, I changed that “maybe I can’t?” to “what if I can?” I continued to put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward. After hours of hiking and months of preparing, I finally made it. When the magnitude of my accomplishment sunk in, I cried tears of joy. It was beautiful to be on top of the world, but I was even more thankful that when I set my expectations to accomplish my goals I did it in a way that set me up for success.
Expectations can be a tricky thing, set them too low and there might not be the motivation to move forward. If you set expectations too high and the pressure of meeting them could ruin your self-esteem. The key is balance. Whatever your dreams may be, don’t get hung up on chasing perfection. Celebrate the journey and enjoy the view from the top!