Accomplishments will never outpace dreams. This has been stated in many different ways. Stephen Covey suggests that everything is created twice; first in someone’s mind, and then in reality. Earl Nightingale said “the pictures you hang on the screen of your mind, is what you will become; no more and no less.” It only makes sense that if we plant corn seeds, we won’t expect to grow oak trees. In the same way, if we plant seeds of mediocrity, we cannot expect to harvest the results of greatness and success that we could have if only we chose to plant a different kind of seed.
If that is so, then why do people have small dreams and expectations? I often find that people in our workshops have a hard time putting items on a dream list. Do they have everything they want? Are they perfectly happy? Not usually. Then why are the corridors of their imagination completely closed with cobwebs and dust?
Perhaps one reason is the admonition, if you don’t expect too much, then you’ll not be disappointed. A recent philosophy promoted by someone on “how to be happy” (published in MacLean’s Magazine) stated that in order to be happy, you should lower your expectations and goals and develop positive, optimistic thinking. This seems to be a contradiction. Perhaps they’re saying that you can be happy by having low expectations and be positive and optimistic that you will reach them. Yet that seems an incredible waste of the talents, potential and opportunity that we are all given.
Research by psychologists (Covington, Spratt and Omelich) has shown that when faced with the potential of risking failure, many people reduce their effort, minimize their expectations and accept failure or mediocrity with relative resignation. It seems that the punishment of real failure and the criticism of their superiors was less motivating than an internal need to maintain the perception that they really had the ability, but didn’t want the end result badly enough to try harder. The study revealed that people who consistently expended high effort and failed, felt more anxiety and shame than those who expended little effort and failed. Those who expended high effort but still failed attributed their failure to a lack of ability. Those who expended little effort could excuse their failure by saying, “I really didn’t want to do well anyway.” In the final analysis, a perceived lack of ability was more painful than a perceived lack of effort.
Salespeople often do this. Rather than go all out to sell a major account, they hold back. They’re late for the meeting or forget their business cards. They have spelling mistakes on the proposal. They may not even make the initial phone call to set up the first appointment. If you pull out all the stops and do your absolute best at getting the account and you fail, in your subconscious mind that failure seems more shameful and painful than if you only put forth a partial effort or none at all. Therefore, the whole concept of being able to get what you want, reach incredible heights, and live your dream life seems to be in direct conflict with this natural human tendency to erect walls to defend your ego.
Isn’t it amazing that our ego is so fragile, our need to protect it so strong that we will give up our most ardent desire, even our dream of a lifetime in order to avoid a bruised ego? Our mind and resources are numbed with anxiety; “If I tried it and failed, what would others think of me?”
We receive mixed messages about how to be a successful member of society. Society tends to look more askance at the individual who “damns the torpedoes, full steam ahead,” than they do at the individual who cautiously tiptoes through life. Yet, we secretly admire the swashbuckler, the maverick or the individualist who goes his/her own way, not caring what others think. In movies, we live vicariously through these strong characters, but we don’t really see ourselves in these roles.
Just think about the things we do to sabotage our success.
- We expect minimum or mediocre results and set up our life to get what we expect.
- We choose small dreams and aspirations.
- We expend minimum effort so we won’t be disappointed.
- When we are given an almost certain guarantee of success, we choke under pressure, get sick, lose our temper, “forget” to do a critical piece of the process, show up in inappropriate attire or just give up.
There is no question that we have the ability to achieve greater things in the future than we have in the past. We rarely come close to using our total potential. We know we can be more disciplined, more energetic, more sociable, more communicative, more focused, more productive… But how much is enough? At what point do we relax and say, “I’m satisfied”?
How much is “Big”?
Only you can answer that question. When we say you should expect to win big, your definition of big might be to quit your high paying (but stressful and unhealthy) job and become a tour boat operator on Vancouver Island. Big might mean buying out your competition, franchising and expanding your operation into 50 countries around the world. Big might mean choosing to stay home with your children and focusing on one of society’s most important tasks – raising healthy, curious, and confident members of the next generation. I believe the definition of “big” is up to you. It is your choice. It’s a vision of what you believe will enable you to live your life the way it was meant to be lived.
“Winning big” means that you had a dream and the courage to challenge the status quo. You were able to remove the opaque film of conditioning from your eyes, to reach deep down into your guts to decide what you really wanted from life and then mustered the grit and determination to pass your previously set quit-line in order to grasp the life you truly desired
Expect to win big in 2012!
Happy New Year!