Default Expectations


I believe that much of what we hear, say, consider and do are based on what I call “default expectations.”  These frame our perspective and drive our behaviour.  Challenges communicating with others usually develop when default expectations differ among people.

Growing up in the rural town of Bear Creek, Alabama, I realized that due to fortunate circumstances I had a different default expectation about my education.  My parents were educated well beyond a high school diploma while many of my schoolmates had families that did not have such opportunities.

The concept that my brother and I would attend and graduate from college was a given in our house and in my mind.  It was as normal to me as going from first grade to second grade.  The earliest my formal education would stop would likely be with a bachelor’s degree.

The idea that college would be a good idea was shared by many of my schoolmates but for most of them it was commonly seen as an “extra” or a even a “fantasy” but not a “given.”

Now I want to be clear.  In no way am I suggesting that my family’s expectations of college made us any better or worse than anyone else.  However, I do believe the default expectations effected the plans, actions and behaviour of all of us.

Two things I find interesting about default expectations…

First, if you avoid assuming that others share your set of expectations, you will be better prepared to understand and communicate with them.  After all, no two people see the world the same, so don’t be surprised when this happens!  And don’t be upset.  The world would be awful and boring if we all thought exactly alike.  (And we’d be dead.)

Second, if you want to accomplish more, focus on resetting your default expectations to be the goals you seek.  Don’t just “want” to accomplish something or be something.  Genuinely engage that you can do this and make it an appropriate priority that is a given, not just a wish.

For example, don’t just want a better job.  Find what is necessary to earn a better job, then do these things.  Make the idea you will make this change a “fact of your life” and not just a wish.  This must be followed by reinforcing your expectations by actively taking the steps to earning the better job, regardless of the time required or set-backs that may occur.

Whatever you decide and set forth to accomplish will take effort… but true accomplishments always do.



About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.