Think about the best teachers, bosses or leaders you have known. Are they memorable because they let you off easy or expected little of you? Probably not. How often have you mused, “I am grateful to Ms. ___ because she didn’t require too much of me”?
Not expecting enough of ourselves – and of others – is an insult. Sure, it is uncomfortable to fall short of goals, but it’s not as damaging as not setting the goals high enough in the first place. Of course, it feels good to fulfill expectations. But does it really feel as good when we know those expectations were too low? If it does, we are selling ourselves short – and allowing others to do the same.
Perhaps what is most troubling about a pattern of low expectations is that it can easily become institutionalized. Pervasive low expectations can create a culture where we feel entitled to achieve or exceed expectations. We may become content with – even demand – “good enough.” We may resent being asked to do something different or more difficult. When important goals aren’t ambitious, we don’t reach far enough. And when we fail to reach far, we atrophy. Like gravity, “good enough” goals bring everyone down.
How do you want to be remembered as an educator, leader, parent? As someone who helped people achieve more than they thought possible – or as someone who settled for “good enough”?
Cynthia Richetti is co-author with Ben Tregoe of Analytic Processes for School Leaders and a consultant for TregoED offering workshops and training for school leaders.