We need a massive injection of positive expectations about the steps we can take to combat these two lurking killers.
We need great expectations of ourselves and of others to deliver great transformations in terms of taking exercise and combating obesity. People say that perception is reality; it’s not, it’s much stronger than that. When you believe you can’t do something, that belief flips an internal switch to prove you right – that you can’t actually do it. It’s a massive self-sabotage switch but its hidden agenda is to make you right. You always knew you couldn’t do it. On the other hand when you believe you can do something (provided it’s realistic and stretching for you) you flip another internal switch that opens up all kinds of possibilities to make that belief happen in real life.
So the initial belief that you can or can’t do something is crucial to the actual doing it or not doing it. “Well, what did you expect?” Expectations matter hugely. “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated,” said the great Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (Pygmalion/My Fair Lady). When you treat a flower girl like a lady something happens. There’s a flip of that inner energy switch. Her expectations of herself changes and subsequently she changes. In other words, if you have positive expectations you will dramatically increase the possibility of getting positive results.
This has often been called the Pygmalion Effect, based on the original Cypriot goldsmith who married his ivory sculpture that Venus turned into a woman. The Pygmalion Effect is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. It means that people will internalise their positive labels and those with positive labels succeed accordingly. Dr. Robert Rosenthal of Harvard University performed an experiment in a school in California that proved how ordinary people can perform at an extraordinary level. At the beginning of the school year, the principal called three teachers into his office. “You are the best teachers in this school. We have identified three classes each with 30 of the brightest students and we’re going to assign them to you to teach for the entire year.” He told the teachers to keep this information totally to themselves. The result? At the end of the school year, these students not only led the school, but also the entire district in academic accomplishment.
Calling the three teachers into his office, the principal said: “Well, you’ve had a very good year.” “Yes we have … it was so easy,” replied the teachers, “these children were so easy to teach. They were so eager to learn; it was such a pleasure to teach them.” The principal then told them the truth. “Actually this was an experiment, and those 90 children were chosen at random. I had no idea what their IQs were at all.”
“That’s incredible!” exclaimed the teachers.
The principal went on: “And I think I should also tell you the other side of the experiment. At the beginning of the school year, we put all the teachers’ names in a hat, and yours were the first three names that were drawn.”
The Pygmalion Effect shows that you achieve not only what you expect to achieve but also what others expect you to achieve.
First the principal expected a lot.
Then so did the teachers.
Then the students, sensing that the teachers expected a lot, in turn expected a lot from themselves. Dr. Rosenthal repeated this experiment 300 times, and every time he got identical results.
To achieve more, you have to expect more from yourself and from others. It really is that simple.
But the opposite is also true and that’s why so many bright and capable people never perform up to their abilities. For too long, they’ve been knocked and put down by people around them in a manner that destroys their self-confidence.
So by 2030 let us expect to be the fittest and healthiest nation in Europe. Let us take all the actions necessary to make that happen. Expect more from yourself. Expect more from others. Whether you jog or walk a mile in seven minutes, or 14 minutes or 21 minutes … you can smile because you’re off the couch, out in the fresh air and it’s still a mile.
Have great expectations and like the teachers, you’ll see dramatic results.
Red Platform: Expect little. Live down to expectations. Prove yourself right.
Green Platform: Great achievements and peak performances always happen in an atmosphere of great expectations.
Declan Coyle is an Irish and international motivational speaker and is also the author of two best-selling book – The Green Platform and Living The Green Platform.