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I find it exciting that, barring brain damage, each one of us is born hardwired with both the instincts and abilities to aspire to greatness.

Innate in each person is the desire to do well, to contribute, and to be successful in life – whatever that picture of success is for us. We don’t need to be taught to want this.

Yet 99% of the world is convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, and they aim for the mediocre middle-ground.

So how do business leaders inspire themselves and their people to aspire, grow and become greater?


Attitude Is Everything

Growing up you may have been told to change your attitude. Why?

Because your attitude is fundamental to how you experience everything in life. Your attitude also affects those around you, and both neuroscience and Quantum Physics verify this.

One of the fundamental tenants of Quantum Physics is that the Observer affects the fabric of his or her reality. That is, the Observer’s perception and expectations determine the reality they experience.

The observer is you and me. Anyone and everyone.

You have the power to determine the way you experience the people, places, things, times and events in your life through your expectation and perception of them. From your earliest moments, you attribute the meaning to all you experience as you endeavoured to make sense of your world.

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”  Lee Iacocca, American Ford Executive.

An interesting experiment was conducted to test the effect of the perception and expectations of teachers upon their students.

In the study, primary school children of one grade were randomly placed into three different groups regardless of their academic and social ability assessed and recorded at the end of the previous year. Each group was then assigned a new teacher who knew nothing of the backgrounds or past assessments of these children.

The first teacher was told her children were exceptionally bright and she should have an easy time teaching them and preparing them for the next grade.

The teacher of the second group was told the children were all of average intelligence and mixed social development, so she would face the usual challenges of teaching to a varied class.

And the teacher of the third group was told her children were academically poor performers with short attention spans, and often difficult to manage.  She was told to do the best she could but not expect too much from her group.

However, each of the groups included children from the whole spectrum of academic abilities and social skills.

At the end of the year each group was academically and socially assessed, and the assessments compared with the child’s personal assessments from the previous year.

Without exception, the children performed both academically and socially, in line with the expectations of their new teacher.

The children with previously low academic ability who were placed in the group labelled as high achievers, greatly improved. And children who had previously achieved well and displayed no problematic behaviour but who were in the group labelled poor performers, had poorer grades and required more behavioural intervention and discipline than in their former years.


Expectations vs Aspirations

The above study demonstrates that expectations can create bias and limit what we see. In its willingness to please us, our brain will search for data to support our expectations while filtering out information or evidence to the contrary.

Expectations usually involve judgement and ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

In the business environment, expectations are commonly discussed. Leaders set expectations for their people, often using these as the criteria for receiving bonuses, raises or promotions.

Employees can feel this as a reward and punishment system. While incentives have their place, they are not always enough to encourage workers to dream bigger, dig deeper or explore their capabilities. Nor do they engender loyalty.

“Aspirations and expectations are not the same. Aspirations encourage you to dream bigger.”

Real change happens when leaders and teams start to let go of expectations and begin to think bigger, to aspire to greater possibilities.  The word aspiration has been defined as the ‘act of breathing into’, ‘giving life to’.  It’s open ended and has room for growth and change.

The act of aspiring activates the prefrontal cortex, the innovative, creative part of our brain. Aspirations inspire and motivate you to stretch yourself, dig deeper, reach higher, think bigger. When you’re aspiring, you’re not thinking about the expectations. You’re not thinking about rewards and punishments.

When Leaders encourage and inspire their people to aspire to bigger possibilities with them, employees feel empowered and engaged. The process of imagining, exploring and discovering together results in teams and colleagues working cooperatively and cohesively to create solutions and achieve bigger results.

What would change if you let go of limiting self-judgement and self-expectation, and allowed yourself to aspire to your biggest dream?

Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

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