Measuring Expectations

How do you measure expectations?

I am asking you to think about that question, and develop an answer in your head.

What’s that? You have questions? Who’s expectations? Well, start with your own expectations.

What do you expect from your own job performance? How do you measure it? Do you even measure it?

Tell me how you measure me, and I will tell you how I will behave,” Eli Goldratt wrote in the 1990 book "The Haystack Syndrome." The book was about how to get information from the haystacks of data that business data systems spew; lots of data but not much information. Goldratt developed a simple definition of information:  "the data that answers the questions you are asking."

Every January, millions of people make resolutions to change their behavior in some way. By February, a majority have given up the effort. They may set goals. They may start to measure things like pounds on the scale, the number of cigarettes consumed, or the number of times they have yelled at the kids. Still, by the end of the second month they have given up the quest.

They have expectations. The expectation is that by losing weight, smoking less, or being kinder to their children, they will have happier lives. Having a fuller, happier life is a universal desire. The reality is that we all can have a full life, though many of us fail to achieve this goal.

For our discussion today, let’s assume that we all share the universal goal of having a full life. That is our expectation, to have a full life. That said, how do we measure a full life? You may think that is a hard question, one that has no simple answer. I don’t agree. I think we all can measure the fullness of our lives by counting the positive results we create.

It is not the weight I lose, but the steps I can climb without breathing hard. It is not the number of cigarettes I don’t smoke, but the extra time I get to spend with my daughters. It is not the number of times I grit my teeth and suppress a yell, but the number of times both my daughters and I smile because we are happy to be together. Measuring a full life is not measuring the absence of the bad behavior; it is measuring the presence of the good behavior that helps our lives be full.

It is vital that we have expectations. Without expectations, we cannot hold ourselves accountable. People who think that they can be happy and avoid disappointment by refusing to have expectations are depriving themselves of the opportunity to have a full life. To have a full life, we must hold ourselves accountable. To have a full life you have to risk failure and disappointment. If you measure the good you create, however, the failure becomes insignificant.

How do you measure your expectations?                                                                            

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