#coachthursdays - How to overcome the battle of expectations - Low expectations versus high expectations


‘Research shows that if patients believe they are taking the real drug, they are more confident of improving and, so, improve even if they are actually on the placebo. Conversely, if they suspect they are taking the placebo, their expectancy of improvement declines, and so does their improvement.’ – John Cornwell

‘Expectancy speeds progress. Therefore, live in a continual state of expectancy. No matter how much good you are experiencing today, expect greater good tomorrow. Expect to meet new friends. Expect to meet new and wonderful experiences’. – Ernest Holmes

Have you got high or low expectations? How important are expectations? Perhaps there is a link between expectations and some of my previous topics. Click 
here to read how to overcome the pain of rejection. Click here to read how to overcome low self-esteem. Click here to read how to overcome impatience. Click here to read how to overcome anxiety. Click here to read how to believe in yourself. Click here to read how to make things happen. Click here to read how to change habits.

As a teacher, we are often judged on how we are fulfilling the eight teacher standards, there are expectations a teacher must display when observed by their mentor or line manager.

The first teacher standard is ‘set high expectations which inspire, motivate, and challenge pupils’. I have often found that certain students actually thought I did not like them, just because I would consistently give them detentions, for not doing their homework or not having the correct equipment. They would complain stating, why am I the only one that does this, and their other teachers do not?

I came to realise that many people do not actually have high expectations for the young, and especially for some that seem to have an attitude, or like to question authority; they do not expect them to be organised or to actually do what they are told.

I found myself explaining to a child that ‘I have high expectations and I believe you can do better, and the reason other people are not giving you a detention is because they do not care about you, they are willing to let you fail, or they have given up on you because they can not be bothered with you, but for me, I am naturally organised and I will remember if you have done your homework or not, and I will keep on giving you a detention because I actually care, you need to learn to be organised and you need to learn things just don’t go away just because you do not do them’.

In my time as a teacher, I have realised many people come into teaching with very low expectations, some even thought the children would bully them and were happy they didn’t, some, on the other hand, expected the students to automatically listen, as students do in Africa, but found these students were not willing to listen and classroom management and behaviour management was something they have never had to think about when they taught in their home countries.

Setting high expectations for pupils is meant to help students to progress and achieve good results. But what happens when we become adults? What happens when you leave school, and there are no longer teachers that are expecting good things from you? What happens when your parents are also just expecting you to just get any job, and have no high expectations? What happens when society shows you that statistically, you are probably going to only have an average salary? What happens when you yourself have low expectations for life?

Many studies have actually linked having no expectations or low expectations with having more happiness. Experiments involving a wealth creation game where you could have 40p per game or gamble to have 90p per game or win nothing showed that people were not happier by generating wealth, but happiness levels shot up from the expectation that they could win bigger amounts. The study suggested that people are happier when their expectations are exceeded, therefore, having low expectations is better. They also mentioned positive expectations on the other hand can help to generate happiness even before the event or outcome.

Many people are told the key to happiness is to not expect anything from anyone and having expectations can only set you up for feeling disappointed and frustrated with people when they don’t meet your expectations. However, I have come to understand that this is a dangerous belief. I was even reminded by a Christian friend about why she sets very high expectations for guys, and how others think she is unrealistic, and they are happy to not expect their partner to spoil them or take them places etc. She mentioned that they are not used to this, and therefore have grown to not expect it, whereas, for her, she has always expected this and has then become used to having her expectations met, but at the same time there is a balance.

I believe the balance is the key, knowing how to just be happy, regardless of whether your expectations are met, instead of living with low expectations just in case you cannot handle the disappointment. In a conversation with my friend, she reminded me about why she writes all her expectations down and they are very detailed, even though she is still willing to be led by God and not have them all met. She mentioned how instead of me just saying I want a good Christian wife, I should have more details for my expectations because what does being a good Christian even mean? She expects her and her husband to be good givers at church, and she expects them to win souls.

Although I had these expectations in my head as I knew what I meant from wanting a good Christian wife, it got me thinking that perhaps, I have some wounds from my previous relationship, where I now believe I should expect less and not be thinking about the real detail of my expectations, after all, I had been fooled to believe it was my expectations that messed up my marriage, but if truth be told it was not having the expectations, it was not knowing that people should have discussed their expectations before marriage and even in marriage, you should continue to do what you know to be right instead of changing because your expectations are not being met. For example, I would stop going church, just because my wife didn’t want to go church, and I did not want people at church to be asking me where is your wife. However, I now realise, the key was to be happy regardless, and to be myself regardless of expectations, the problem was not because I had expectations.

But what are expectations? ‘Expectations are conceptually close to, but not the same as, beliefs and have been defined as both the anticipation of future outcomes (predictive expectation) and the desire for the occurrence of future outcomes (normative expectation).’

I often use to live by the phrase ‘I hope for the best, but I expect the worse’. It was as though, through imagining what the worst things that could happen were, then I could take the power away from them and any fear, as it would not really be able to bother me that much or shock me from the surprise. However, I now understand what the world calls hope and faith is completely different from what hope and faith actually is from a biblical perspective. In addition, even when I lived by this saying I still had balance, I wasn’t really expecting bad things to literally happen, I was more just aware of their possibility but had a daily expectation that good things would always come my way, and I was destined for greatness.

Expectations can literally make or break us. There are some people that apply for jobs that they know on paper they are not qualified for and manage to land these jobs. Whereas, there are people that on paper are qualified for senior positions but have given themselves low expectations that they must start from the bottom of the company and work their way up, and there are some that would never apply for their dream career or pursue it as they have grown to believe and not expect dreams to come true.

Low expectations can set you up for failure, making you underachieve or accepting people to treat you badly and less than you are worth, and even manipulate you. High expectation can also set you up for failure, by you becoming a perfectionist, and very judgemental and not seeing the worth of people, and what they have to offer, as you are only seeing what you believe they are not doing right, it can also lead to intimacy problems as you may just keep pushing people away, as you are expecting too much (without a healthy balance); this can then also lead to fear of change, or fear of failure, as you will unconsciously keep finding reasons to prove your judgements or fears were right.

How to overcome this battle:

1) Understand it is good to have high expectations, it is good to have a vision and clear plans and have them written down with time frames. However, you need to be aware if your expectations are from a dark place, from a selfish or wounded place in your heart, or from lack of faith, trying to control life instead of learning how to be resilient.

2) What are your expectations for each of the areas of your life (faith, work, relationships, family, etc)? Write them down with details and then ask yourself, are these expectations really about you being happy, or are they about what your family wants? Would you be happy if your child had these expectations? Are they too low? Do you need to learn how to overcome low self-esteem (click 
here) or how to overcome the pain of rejection (click here), as you may have wounds that are causing you to believe you should no longer have certain types of expectations?

3) Who gains from your expectations? Is life just about what you can get, and what you want? And do you expect life and even relationships to be a bed of roses, do you expect to just inherit your dream job without any work? Are you preparing for what you’re expecting? Jeremiah 29:11 says ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Are you leaving room for God to move with your expectations? For example, my female friend that has very high expectations for her future husband, also understands it may not be every expectation that will be met, and also understands some may be met after marriage, but she understands that she should have the expectation so she can present it to God.

4) Wake up expecting your expectation to be met, go to church expecting to leave differently and with answers to your questions, pray expecting an answer. Many people love God, but they don’t actually expect much from him, they don’t actually expect him to lead them in all areas of their life and so they do not present all areas of their life to him or have expectations for all areas of their life. They don’t expect him to directly show them who they should marry for example, or if a job is right etc, and then they go about making their own decisions even though they are actually Christians.

I realised many people go through the motions with life, they expect the bus to come, they expect their job to pay them a salary, but they don’t really expect miracles or even their dreams to actually happen, they have settled in their mind that expecting amazing things is a waste of time. However, expectancy, hope, and faith are crucial to real happiness and peace. Expect that you will be used for a purpose that only you can fulfill. You are here for a reason, expect to wake up every day and shine, expect to save lives with just your smile and presence and testimony. Expect miracles, signs, and wonders.


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A father, a teacher, a poetic life coach who knows to say it, feel it, see it like you already are it, now repeat it, till you are it. Obtaining wealth is a skill that can be taught. Fulfillment, completeness and divine wholeness is a manifestation of your choices. Make the right choice and transform your life, one word at a time.

Jonathan Lilley


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