This blog is written with a first person narrator: While writing, I noticed that the tone improved when I kept it to myself.
I suppose and hope that makes it easier to recognize.
I have become aware how much I’ve always struggled with expectations: Other people’s expectations and my own.
The struggle starts when the expectation has not been met, or when this is likely to happen, or when I expect this to happen. My emotional reaction is disappointment, dismay, forcedness. It may take me a while before I have regained my balance.
These expectations often have had to do with my apparent overdose of talents: One should be able to achieve exceptional results with such an overdose, right?
Wonder is usually associated with small children; the smaller, the more skilled they seem to be. It’s about open-minded, eager and intense experiencing everything new that presents itself.
It so happens that avid curiosity is seen as a typical characteristic of extra intelligent or gifted people. “Beyond the horizon it really gets interesting.” Because everything that is closer than the horizon may already be known. So one might say that XIPs are really hardwired for wonder.
Similarly, this is how it works for me: I happily explore with clients their unseen qualities; I enjoy the search for new applications of knowledge about intelligent people, and I love to create while experimenting how to fix things. That is only possible if I am able to marvel at what presents itself.
There are many philosophers who see wonder as the beginning of wisdom. Did they know at the time they were XIPs and just following their inclinations?
Nevertheless, being an XIP, I have to deal with those expectations of my output and the stupid thing is: They pin me down. Or so it feels.
Am I doing something wrong?
I do find some kind of explanation in Carol Dweck’s Mindset theory; see also my web page on Mindset:
- Having a Fixed Mindset about your special talents will make you inevitably afraid of failure, deceptions will stop you, and so on.
- Having a Growth Mindset makes you eagerly striving to achieve your goals, a failure will be an invitation to try again differently, and so on.
So the obvious choice is: Growth Mindset. That encourages me to wonder, isn’t that wonderful?
Unfortunately, if it were that simple and obvious, the Fixed Mindset would have been officially banned and abolished ten years ago. But at any rate, this explanation tells me that I am free to have my own way in dealing with my own expectations. And if I feel that others pin me down with their expectations, it doesn’t need to spoil my day.
So it seems to boil down to:
- Am I willing and able to keep other people’s expectations and my own expectations apart?
- Do I allow myself not to satisfy other people’s expectations, or more precisely, when do I allow myself this, and when do I not?
Exciting questions, but not easy ones:
Because those efforts take place in the context of (almost) mythical images of “ideal extraordinarily intelligent persons” and their special role and mission for the benefit of family, school or a wider community. It seems to me that those images of the highly talented have always been there, and will always be there in some form, creating an endless flow of great expectations.
- The parents who have fantasies about their “promised child” that is so special, and who will do better than the parents ever did themselves.
- The school that also wants that their smart students score highest in various contests.
- The concerned citizens who are dead certain that poverty and disease will be reduced when bright minds just dedicate themselves to those tasks.
- The government that aims for a strategic advantage over neighbouring countries and wants to put those talented minds to use as effectively as possible.
So many good intentions, basically.
What can you avoid and what can you not avoid?
I am aware that I carry those mythical images and great expectations just as neat inside of me, including my potential role in them. That makes it sometimes quite complicated to keep my own and other people’s expectations apart.
But I fortunately also know that some of those images are one-dimensional hero archetypes. As a human being of flesh and blood I cannot maintain to be a one-dimensional hero. So I’d better not try to fulfil that kind of role.
Preliminary conclusion: It’s inevitable that other people have all kinds of typical expectations of me. That’s the unsolicited gift I was given when I was born as an XIP.
But those expectations tell me more about them, than about me. They refer to only a part of me. And that probably goes as well for some of my own expectations.
At the least, that can help me in dealing with them.
Cleaning up helps too
My challenge is to be aware of what I adopt from other people’s expectations and secondly, to keep my own expectations well dosed.
I have also discovered that I carry all kinds of old expectations since childhood; the burden of which I had become so accustomed to, that I was not aware anymore that I still carried them.
I am gradually letting them go.
As a result of this clean up of various kinds of expectations, I find that I have more time and opportunities to wonder.
That is good news, because I feel that wondering is innate to me and that it feeds me. And the more I do it, the easier I have access to it again.
It also seems that I reach my goals better through wonder than through my expectations.
Maybe everything will be all right for this XIP, eventually.