Expectations will go as low as you let them

I am subbing at a local high school as I type these words. Don't worry, they are taking a test so I'm not shirking my responsibilities. When I walked in the door this morning at the school, I was asked to sub for a class that I wasn't originally assigned for, but only for first period. It was a math class and they had plenty of work left for them to keep them busy.

For the most part they did really well, working to complete their assignments while keeping the noise to a minimum. I try to be a "cool" sub, the one who pushes them to do their assignments but doesn't crack the whip too hard. Plus, it's Friday, and everyone should catch a little bit of a break on Friday, right?

All was going well when I noticed this one student who wasn't keeping up with the rest of the others. He wasn't disruptive or anything like that. In fact, he was entirely quiet. That's because he was sound asleep the entire time he was in my class. Not once did his pencil move in rhythm with the other students as they completed their assignments. I didn't realize he was asleep until about halfway through the class - I just assumed he preferred doing his work with his head on his arm. But nevertheless, the only thing that finally grabbed his attention was the clutter of his classmates as they gathered their belongings to head out to their next class.

That disappointed me. I guess I expected some sort of effort on his part, even if what he had in front of him was little more than busy work handed out by a substitute teacher such as myself. My expectation for him exceeded his reality.

Have you ever expected something from someone but only been disappointed when they failed to deliver? How many times have you supported a certain political candidate only to become frustrated when he or she neglected to follow through on their promises? Pretty much every time, right?

The question that needs to be asked then is, "Do we expect too much from other people?" It's hard to give blanket answer to a question that broad, but the best answer would be NO, we should not expect less from others when we know full well they have the ability to give more than they are willing to deliver.

The key word here is willing. When people can do more, they should. A saying that I like to use is that people will often only go as low as the bar you set for them. If you run for political office and you make a promise, then you should do everything in your power to deliver on that promise. If you don't, then it shows that you are unwilling to raise yourself above the minimum height of the bar that's been set for you.

Expectations don't have to be unrealistic and they don't have to disappoint us. A good rule to go by when fulfilling your own obligations is to expect more from yourself first than you do from other people. 

Raise the bar for yourself. Don't settle for barely getting by when you know that you are capable of more. And before you become too disappointed at other people for not coming through, make sure that you are delivering on the goods that you have promised to others and to yourself. 

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