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By Travis Bradberry
Your expectations, more than anything else in life, determine your reality. When it comes to achieving your goals, if you don’t believe you’ll succeed, you won’t.
Research from LSU shows that people who believe in themselves use more metacognitive functions than those who don’t. This means that they use more of their brains and have more brainpower to solve problems. Metacognition is especially important for achievement as it ensures that you approach problems from many different angles and adapt your approach as needed.
The tricky thing about your expectations is that they impact other people too. As far back as the 1960s, Harvard research demonstrated the power of our beliefs in swaying other people’s behavior. When teachers in the studies were told that certain (randomly selected) children were smart, those kids performed better, not only in the classroom, but also on standardized IQ tests.
Indeed, we get the most out of other people when we believe in them. Research shows that this happens because when we believe in someone,
- We treat them better than people we think will fail,
- We give them more opportunities to succeed than we give those we think will fail,
- We give them more accurate, helpful feedback than we give others, and
- We do more teaching because we believe it’s time well spent.
Letting your doubts cloud your belief in someone (or something) practically ensures their failure. Medical professionals call this the “nocebo” effect. Patients who have low expectations for medical procedures or treatments tend to have poorer results than those who expect success, even with regards to well-established treatments. If a doctor uses a treatment with a clinically verified high rate of success but presents it in a negative light, the probability of a negative outcome increases.
Your expectations shape your reality. They can change your life, emotionally and physically. You need to be extra careful about (and aware of) the expectations you harbor as the wrong ones make life unnecessarily difficult. Be especially wary of the expectations that follow—they give people all kinds of trouble.
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#1. You paid the bills this month, and maybe even had extra to spend on non-necessities. It doesn’t matter how much you belabored the checks as they went out, the point is that they did, and you figured it out regardless.
#2. You question yourself. You doubt your life. You feel miserable some days. This means you’re still open to growth. This means you can be objective and self-aware. The best people go home at the end of the day and think: “or… maybe there’s another way.”
#3. You have a job. For however many hours, at whatever rate, you are earning money that helps you eat something, sleep on something, wear something every day. It’s not failure if it doesn’t look the way you thought it would – you’re valuing your independence and taking responsibility for yourself.
#4. You have time to do something you enjoy. Even if “what you enjoy” is sitting on the couch and ordering dinner and watching Netflix.
#5. You are not worried about where your next meal is coming from. There’s food in the fridge or pantry, and you have enough to actually pick and choose what you want to eat.
#6. You can eat because you enjoy it. It’s not a matter of sheer survival.
#7. You have one or two truly close friends. People worry about the quantity but eventually tend to realize the number of people you can claim to be in your tribe has no bearing on how much you feel intimacy, acceptance, community, or joy. At the end of the day, all we really want are a few close people who know us (and love us) no matter what.