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.
Life Should Be Fair
We’ve all been told a million times (and likely told other people) that life isn’t fair, but in spite of what we know about the intricacies of injustice, it’s a concept that doesn’t quite sink in in practice. A surprising number of us subconsciously expect life to be fair, and we believe that any unfairness that we experience will somehow be balanced out, even if we don’t do anything about it. If you’re stuck in that mindset, it’s time to get over it.