Big bold statements like this can get me into trouble, but this kind of trouble leads to an important debate I intend to work through with you today.
Words have power. We can all agree on that at least. The word "expectation" has the power to destroy your relationships. Let's keep it civil here and only talk about horses, but feel free to transpose this experience to other areas in your life.
This isn't the first time I've written about this. Read more. But I'm bringing it up again because we need repetition to master any subject.
Today... I'm gonna jump right in with a big fat statement and then wind back through stories and antidotes to where it all makes sense.
My big fat statement... "High expectations are dangerous. High standards are best. High hopes are fine."
A person who has high hopes may be disappointed by not getting what they want but in the back of their mind they knew it wasn't expected. It wasn't a certainty. And they adjust their emotional response to move ahead very quickly and without any problems, on to the next thing.
A person who has high standards won't be disappointed when something doesn't go as planned. They know the effort it takes to achieve great things. They have great empathy for anyone on the path of development toward new standards. Failure is inevitable and part of mastery. Failure is expected on the journey and success is inevitable.
A person with high expectations however, as opposed to high standards, is set up for deep, deep frustration.
"ALL FRUSTRATION COMES FROM UNMET EXPECTATIONS."
If you expect something, it's because you believe blindly that nothing else will happen. Last year I worked for seven days straight with an agreement to get paid at the end. I still haven't been paid.
Should I be angry and frustrated by this? Your answer tells you whether or not you expected it or hoped for it. If I'm angry, that means I expected payment and I'm likely going to be very negative toward everyone until I get what I want. And if I never get it... I'm going to hold grudges.
If I didn't expect it, I may still be disappointed, that's natural. That means I'd hoped for better and didn't get it, but I know exactly where to focus next.
What should I do? What's the best mode of operation? Answer... except the failure in communication and raise my standards. Learn, grow, master the experience.
Remember, words have power. Semantics are important. Unmet, expectations lead to frustration. Unmet hopes lead to disappointment, but also clarity. Unmet standards lead to empathy and a re-energized effort to meet your standard.
Debate my wordplay if you like, I never shy away from wordplay. It's much better than swordplay. I'm open to your interpretation of phrases like "high expectations." We all grew up with slightly different models. The point I'm making is that, usually, high expectations lead to negative experiences for everyone. High standards lead to positive experiences for everyone.
Experiment for yourself. See if it's true for you. You might think it's important to have high expectations. I'll just invite you to change the word to high standards. It's less blind to possible pitfalls. It's more open to error and growth. It keeps the blame for failure and progress in context of everything that's true instead of beating yourself up or the people around you for not already being perfect.
If you don't believe me, show me where I'm missing the point. I'm open. You have marvelous life experiences to share to enrich my life. But give me evidence. Don't just tell me I'm wrong. Show me with stories and proof, because at this point, all the evidence points to this simple outlook... high expectations are dangerous.
High hopes are fine. High standards win the cake and take the day.
Just a few months ago I taught a horse lesson for an older woman here in Montana. She came to me because she was pissed off at her horse not behaving. I asked her why she was so angry. She replied with, "I've had this horse for years and he still has this same stupid problem." I smiled. I know this story well. I validated her experience because I've been there and then I said... "What did you expect?"
Our exchange lasted a few minutes and by the end she turned the corner, dropped her frustrations and mapped out the most obvious next goals. Which, ironically, were staring her in the face for years and she couldn't see them because her frustration blocked all her normal thinking processes. Frustration, that came from... you guessed it... high expectations. Blind certainty that it should be different than it is. In the end, she began a simple journey that had since taken her beyond those lingering problems and she's literally riding off into the sunset with confidence. I just received a nice note from her expressing her gratitude for catching her and boosting her past that emotional speedbump.
I hope her story sticks with you too. Thanks for reading. Apply to yourself and your horse experience and give me your feedback. I love hearing from you.
With Mastery Horsemanship
I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.
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