What Are Your Expectations

“Make a foul shot!” I yelled at the television screen as my favorite college basketball team clanked another free throw off the rim. My team was not meeting my expectations. “What’s hard about shooting 70% from the line?” as another shot hit the rim so hard I was convinced the backboard was going to break.

Outside of counseling, one of the many hats I wear is basketball coach. I am a volunteer coach for a local Middle School. One day after a particularly frustrating basketball practice, I was venting to my father, a former college coach, about how some of the kids trying out could not shoot a left-handed layup. “Dad, they are in 6th grade. How can you not be able to shoot a layup correctly?”

My Dad listened to me and said something to me that changed my entire outlook. “You can’t expect them to be able to do the things that you could do naturally.” Expectations. We all have them. We all are subject to them. How we respond to them, that’s what matters.

Reasonable Expectations

When talking about expectations the first thing to ask is: “Is the reasonable?” Sometimes the expectations we place on others or allow others to place on us are not realistic. I can expect to play for the Los Angeles Lakers right now. However, being 6’2, 37 years old, out of shape, and having diminished/limited ability, pretty much make this expectation to be more of a pipe dream. As a matter of fact, if I tried to reach this goal, I would probably hurt myself! (Actually, let’s be honest and take out probably and insert surely.)

That’s the importance of knowing if something is realistic or not. We often hurt ourselves and others with expectations that are unreasonable. One of my favorite Bible stories happens is the one about David and Goliath. In preparation for battle, King Saul places his armor on David and tells him to go out and fight Goliath.

The armor was too big for David. So much so he took two steps in this armor and said, “This is not going to work for me. I have not tested these.” David takes off the armor and goes out with a slingshot and 5 stones. The rest is history.

There are two interesting points that I want to make. The first one is that Saul sent David out to do something that he was not willing to do himself. How often do we have the expectation for someone to do something that we would never imagine ourselves doing? Saul, being the king, SHOULD have been the one to go out and fight the Giant. The soldiers SHOULD have been the ones taking up the challenge.

Leaders lead by example. You cannot expect kindness from people if you treat them badly. You have to model the type of behavior you want from others. In the case of my players or clients, sometimes I have to teach a new skill or revise the way they have been doing things their entire lives. They may not get it the first time or even the fifth, but I am there with them in the trenches. I’m not there as a passive on looker, but as an active coach and sometimes teammate.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Now what would have happened to David if he would have attempted to fight the giant with Saul’s armor? It would not have ended well. David knew what he could and could not do and responded accordingly.  When we set high, yet attainable, expectations for ourselves we can literally change our lives. Usually, there is a process that coincides with reaching these expectations.

Going back to my original example of foul shots, none of the players wanted to miss them. Actually, no one wanted to make them more than those players who were shooting them. Were my expectations of those players reasonable? (Well they do have 24-hour access to a state of the art practice facility, but that is beside the point. )

We sometimes need to take a step back and take the emotions out of our situations and develop a course of action so we can meet the more balanced expectations that have been placed on us or we have placed on ourselves. It would be easy to throw up our hands and say this is too difficult. However, those that are successful find ways to meet the expectations that they have set for themselves.

The college team I was referencing shot the ball better from the line the next two games. When asked what the difference was, their coach said, “The guys got in the gym and worked.” Work is inevitable if we are going to meet our own expectations. David did not see the giant as an obstacle because he had already killed a bear and lion. He prepared for and expected success. We need to do the same. Now stop reading this and get into the gym and practice!