“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right,” so stated the famous American industrialist Henry Ford. Of course, he also thought the Edsel was a good idea, so he wasn’t right about everything.
I’ve been thinking much about expectations these days. My youngest son, you see, is a student-athlete at the University of Miami. He enrolled this past June with many ascribed “high expectations.” And they weren’t talking about his GPA.
I’ve yet to meet a parent whose hopes for his child are that he or she grows up to be a disappointment. So, like other Dads, I have very high hopes and expectations for my kids, too. Naturally, all three are pursuing completely different paths, but the expectations for each of them to have success in their chosen fields are very high. Not one of my children, by the way, is named Edsel.
The path our youngest son is taking, however, is a bit more public. If one cares to, his success or failure on the ball field can be followed and pontificated upon from week to week. And I must say, I’m rather intrigued by the number of self-proclaimed “experts” who really seem to enjoy pontificating.
“Expectations have long been a topic of psychological research,” says Jonah Lehrer in an article in the Boston Globe, “but in recent years, scientists have been intensively studying how expectations shape our direct experience of the world, what we taste, feel and hear.” The article goes on to explain, for example, that a generic drug — which has the exact same ingredients as the brand name — is often proven to be less effective merely because it costs less. In other words, the expectation is that the less expensive drug can’t possibly be as effective as the more expensive one.
“The human brain, research suggests, isn’t built for objectivity,” Lehrer explains. “The brain is ‘cooking the books,’ adjusting its own inputs depending on what it expects. Science suggests that, in important ways, people experience reality not as it is, but as they expect it to be.” Science, it would seem, agrees with Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or can’t, you’re right.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations these days, especially after a particular game where David blasted a towering home run in the top of the eighth inning to tie the game. It was a clutch hit that propelled the team to eventually win in eleven innings. After the game, David confidently said, “I knew I was going to hit it out before I came up to bat.” I mustered a deep and powerful philosophical response to my son’s heroics by saying, “Wow!”
The problems come, of course, when our expectations for ourselves or others are delayed or not realized. Calvin, of the famous “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip said, “I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep everyone’s expectations.”
Calvin was right, life is a lot easier without expectations. But without them, I wonder if we would ever have heard of Neal Armstrong, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, Babe Ruth or LeBron James? But we are an impatient society and don’t have much time for the close relatives of expectations such as dedication, talent and tenacity. We want our expectations met and we want them met right now! Life, however, doesn’t always cooperate.
You may remember the popular bumper sticker that read, “Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet.” It was basically a paraphrase from the Philippians 1:6 Bible verse which reads, “…and I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Ruth Graham, the loving wife of evangelist Billy Graham, fully understood this Bible promise. If you were to visit her gravesite you would see the following inscribed on her tombstone: “End of construction. Thank you for your patience.”
Expectations fully achieved.
Ed Thompson is President of LOGOI Ministries and a frequent contributor to this newspaper. Follow his blog at edthompsonlive.wordpress.com