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Great Expectations

I was working with an athlete who was terribly disappointed after a race and it was impacting his view of himself and his ongoing performance. What do you say to someone who had trained hard, worked hard and broke down in the event he had set as his goal?

Often performance athletes and anyone else with high expectations (often ‘Perfectionism’) create a view of what should be and what they ‘should’ achieve.

In short, they have ‘Great Expectations’.

When they can?t achieve their expected outcome (as in this case) or they are afraid that they can?t achieve it, they start making the ‘event’ mean negative things about themselves. I have seen this many times using hypnosis to help with sports performance.

There is a big difference between a ‘goal’ and an ‘expectation’. A goal is something that can be strived for, knowing that stretching and pushing beyond what you are capable of gets you further. Doing their best encourages a positive frame in which to reach the goal.

An expectation on the other hand is a rigid rule. A minimum standard that is either reached or is not, it is a very black or white view of success. Often, expectations are not helpful because rather than providing a ‘target’, they provide the basis for judgement.

When someone performs at their best but fails to meet their expectations (as happens in perfectionism), then the judgement (and implied self-assessment) is negative. This can be a motivator, but usually it is unhelpful in getting people to strive for and reach their potential. And yet, they performed at their best.
Often a single point in time (the event) is laden with so much expectation, that even the potential of not performing directly impacts on the ability to perform.

Encouraging people to see how their judgement is in fact an impossible comparison between ‘reality’ (what happened) and ‘unreality’ (the expectation) often helps to unlock the problem. Getting them to see the difference between a goal and a rigid expectation is also useful.

Given that the person sets the expectation, and they are the one to judge, getting them to reframe the expectation as a goal and allowing themselves to see that a single point in time does not reflect on who they are but rather it is what they did, is also powerful in helping them break through.

And the outcome? This athlete ran a PB (personal best) in a training session not long after and has set new goals for even greater achievement with only one great expectation, to do their best no matter what, because doing their best is the best that they can do, is it not?

What is your ‘great expectation’? When have you been the victim of your great expectation? What happened next?
I would love to hear your stories. Please comment below.

Live Well
Phil