Expectations Determine Outcome

Sep 18, 2023

So How Do I Change My Expectations?

Author Michael Lewis (author of Money Ball, The Blind Side, & The Big Short) shared, “As I've gotten older, I could not help but notice the effect on people of the stories they told about themselves. If you listen to people, if you just sit around and listen, you’ll find there are patterns in the way they talk about themselves. There's the kind of person who is always the victim. They're always unlucky. Always on the receiving end of some injustice."  “There are lots of versions of this, and you’ve got to be very careful about how you tell these stories because it starts to become you. You are, in the way you craft your narrative, crafting your character.”

The way you shape your thoughts and conversations shapes your destiny. The way you talk to yourself equals the way you view the world. And the way you view the world determines your response. And your response determines what you get out of life.

Michael Lewis: "I remember being in the headmasters office at the Newman School for insulting the English teacher. I'd actually planned my insult. I thought it was such a clever thing to say. She was notoriously unpleasant to students, and she said something kind of sharp at me, and I said, 'Dr. Francis, are you always so pleasant to be with, or is this just an especially good day for you?' And she just pointed to the door, like, 'Go to the headmaster. Here's a note. You go.' And when I repeated what I'd done you could see the headmasters just cracking up. He knew he was supposed to punish me, but he just started laughing because he had the same feelings about the English teacher. He said, 'Michael Lewis, I've been watching you around this place for 10 years and you're one of the happiest people I have ever met, but you can't be doing this S#*t.' And he said, 'We have to agree. We've got to control it in various ways. The spirit is high in you, but we've got to control it.'" Lewis continues, "And when he said that, 'You’re like one of the happiest people I’ve ever met,' it hadn’t occurred to me, because I think when you’re happy, you know it when you’re unhappy. But when you’re happy you just take it for granted. But from that moment on, I didn’t take it for granted. I thought, 'He’s right, that I can be really happy even when things aren’t going so great.' And I like that. I liked that self-definition, so I sought to preserve it. — At some point I decided, 'I am going to adopt, self-consciously as my narrative, that I'm the happiest person anybody knows.'" 

Sathiya Sam shared a conversation with his grandfather about his marriage of 62 years (before his wife passed away).

"When we asked him what the secret of a healthy marriage was, the first thing he said 'trust.'  Kinda obvious…So we poked a bit more and asked what ‘trust’ meant to him… “Trust is about learning to support the other in the way they need it.” 

He was hitting on something my wife and I have been picking up from some of the other experts we’ve been listening to lately…

For a relationship to be healthy long-term, you have to be willing to change yourself to accommodate the changes taking place in the other person. Fascinating. 

Second thing? My wife asked my Grandpa how they got through the hard times in their marriage…

“No hard times,” my grandpa said. “What do you mean?” We piped back. “No hard times.” 

We were stunned, but something clicked when he said that. Human nature will always veer towards expectation.
If you expect marriage to be hard and challenging – it will likely be hard and challenging. My Grandpa was instilling a different expectation in us… He wasn’t saying that marriage is perfect and there aren’t challenges. Rather, he was casting a vision for marriage that has minimal hardship because challenges are seen as opportunities and disagreements as learning moments."


Beware of the expectations you set, both for yourself and for others.


In his book Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, the author and poet David Whyte expounds the “everyday conversational essence” of the word destiny. It’s not out of our control. It’s not some future influenced “by some fated, unseen force…a greater hand than our own, working at the edges."— "It’s “our future influenced by the very way we hold the conversation…by the very way we shape and hold the everyday conversations of life.” Therefore, Whyte writes, “a different way of shaping the conversation will result in a different outcome.”

Shape the conversation in a different way, get a different outcome. 


How Do I Change the Narrative of My Thoughts?

There are many powerful ways to change our inner dialogue. Here are links to one powerful sermon, two previous episodes I highly recommend, and finally a powerful story/practice you can try out today. 

  • Choices for Eternity- President Russell M. Nelson - "Labels can be fun and indicate your support for any number of positive things. Many labels will change for you with the passage of time. And not all labels are of equal value. But if any label replaces your most important identifiers, the results can be suffocating. — How tragic it is when someone believes the label another person has given them. Imagine the heartache of a child who is told, “You are dumb.” Identifiers and labels are powerful! Know the truth about who you are."

1. #22: How to Take Back Your Brain Health Holistically - Dr. John Hatch This is a persuasive episode on power of the mind, with dozens of solutions to remedy our health. (and not just mental health) I dare say this was a bit of a mind blowing experience, when we first recorded it, on the power of our minds. Synopsis- "Things that fire together, wire together. And things that fire apart wire apart." From Autoimmune to Dementia & Addiction to Depression, Dr. Hatch shares how powerful our brains can be in both damaging and repairing every aspect of our physical and emotional health. 

2. #44: Pygmalion Effect - How Expectations Improve Performance -  Labels matter. And you Find what you're looking for.(aka. expectations) Synopsis - The Pygmalion effect is a psychological phenomenon wherein high expectations lead to improved performance. Expectations have immense power to influence who we are and who we become. Whether they're our expectations or the expectations of others, the difference they can make in our lives is surprising.  " 
The Pygmalion Effect - (short YouTube synopsis of the Pygmalion effect) 
The Pygmalion  Experiment - (YouTube video with commentary and perspectives presented by Dr. Phillip Zimbardo and other Experimenters)

Here is a powerful practice from David Goggin's in his new book Never Finished

"One day a couple of years ago, not long after ramping up my training from 10 miles of running per day to 20 or more. I felt drained and sore, too tired to run, and kept telling myself that I needed a day off. As I relaxed on the couch. I tuned into my-self talk, then I grabbed my recorder and whined in the microphone. I wanted to hear how it sounded out loud. I was real with myself. I catalogued my recent runs and nagging injuries, and described how I thought a day off might help me. I made a solid case for a much needed rest day. But when I played it back back, the jury of one was unconvinced. Because my inner b*#%! was suddenly the Emperor with no clothes. Buck naked in the light of day he was impossible to ignore, and even harder to stomach. I was off the couch and out on the road in a matter of seconds."

"Many people wake up with dread or doubt day after day. They dread their workouts, their class load, or their job. Maybe they have a test or presentation that makes them nervous. Or they know that the day's workout will hurt. While they linger in bed, they tune into their soft, forgiving self-talk, which doesn't make it any easier to get up and moving. Most people rise up eventually, but they remain in a daze for hours because they aren't fully engaged with their lives. Their self-talk has made them numb to the moment, and they sleepwalk through half the day before they finally perk the @*%#! up."

"The way we speak to ourselves in moments of doubt is crucial. Whether or not the stakes are high, because our words become actions and our actions build habits that can coat our minds and bodies with a plaque of ambivalence, hesitancy and passivity and separate us from our own lives. If any of this sounds familiar, grab your phone and record your inner dialogue as soon as you wake up. Don't hold back. Spill all your dread, laziness, and stress into the mic. Now listen to it. 9 times out of 10 You won't like what you hear. It will make you cringe. You wouldn't want your girlfriend or boyfriend, your boss or your kids to hear your unfiltered weakness. But you should. Because then you can repurpose it. You can use it to remind yourself that changes must be made. Listening might inspire you to commit to your life in a deeper way, to be your best at work, at school or in the gym. It can challenge you to rewrite the narrative so that when you bed down, you won't feel like you wasted another valuable day. Do it again the next morning. But this time, once you get through listening to all your whining about the $*#! you don't want to do, sit up in bed and lay down a second tape. Pretend you're motivating a friend or a loved one who's going through challenges. Be respectful of the issues they face, but be positive, forceful and realistic too."

"This is a skill that demands repetition. And if you do it regularly, you'll find it won't take long for your self-talk to flip from doubt and dread to optimism and empowerment. The conditions of your life might not change a whole lot at first, but your words will make sure that your approach does change. And that will eventually enable you to shift everything. But you must speak the truth and be willing to listen to it. Don't be afraid of your weakness or doubt. Don't be embarrassed to pretend it doesn't exist. It surfaced for a reason. So use it to flip the dynamic of your life."


Expectations and Identity as Relating to Children

I know, this is already a long post, but this section is too important to be left out!  (many of the below ideas come from a wonderful discourse titled What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?- By Lynn G. Robbins)

  • Because being leads to doing and is the motive behind do, teaching be will improve behavior more effectively than focusing on do will improve behavior. 
  • When a kid misbehaves we usually discipline them on what they did. (the do, the behavior) But the do is only a symptom of the unseen motive in their minds and hearts. (behavior is the tip of the iceberg) But we need to ask ourselves "What attribute, what identity and character, if understood by this child, would correct this behavior in the future?' Is it being patient and forgiving when annoyed? Is it loving and being a peacemaker? Is it putting people before things? Is it taking personal responsibility for our actions and not blaming others?"
  • The greatest opportunity that we (as parents) have to teach attributes to our children (being & identity) is when we are praising them and disciplining them. When our children misbehave, we must be careful not to say things that would cause them to believe that what they did wrong is who they are. “Never let failure progress from an action to an identity,” with its attendant labels like “stupid, slow, lazy, or clumsy.” Our children are God’s children. That is their true identity and potential. His very plan is to help His children overcome mistakes and misdeeds and to progress to become as He is. "Disappointing behavior, therefore, should be considered as something temporary, not permanent—an act, not an identity."
  • We need to be careful, therefore, about using permanent phrases such as “You always …” or “You never …” when disciplining. Take care with phrases such as “You never consider my feelings” or “Why do you always make us wait?” Phrases like these make actions appear as an identity and can adversely influence the child’s self-perception and self-worth.
  • Identity confusion can also occur when we ask children what they want to be when they grow up, as if what a person does for a living is who he or she is. Neither professions nor possessions should define identity or self-worth.
  • Conversely we should still complement and praise their achievements and behavior (things they do) but it’s even more effective/wise to focus our praise on their character and beliefs (who they are)
  • (e.g. when complementing a child in sports, complement their performance (what they’ve done) through the lens of (being) like their energy, persistence, doggedness in sticking with it through the struggle. This complements both the Be and Do. When asking a kid to do chores, look for ways to complement them on being, such as “I really appreciate it when you quick to listen and do it with a willing heart.” When they get an assignment back from school, you can praise the grade, but it may be of more lasting benefit to praise them for them for their diligence. “You turned in every assignment, You know how to tackle and finish difficult things.” 


TL;DR = The stories we tell ourselves shape our character and destiny. Expectations determine outlook, and outlook determines response. Flip your self-talk from doubt and dread to optimism and empowerment and while your conditions may not change overnight, your words will make sure your approach does, and eventually it will shift everything. To effect real change and resiliency in others (especially kids) praise them for both Being and Doing, but focus most on complementing their efforts (Who they are) more than focusing on the outcome (what they did).

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