Brett Jarman

Jul 14, 2021

2 min read

The Untapped Potential of Positive Expectancy

When you think about your personal goals, plans or maybe even a vision of your life in the future, how positive do you feel that you will succeed in making these a reality?

For a lot of people, even just thinking about them can often generate feelings of a huge uphill struggle, or a long and arduous journey fraught with risks and danger. Rather than visualize ourselves achieving and maintaining this mentality, we often have a tendency to focus on what could go wrong.

I know I’ve been guilty of it as a Project Manager, as so much emphasis is placed on risk mitigation for example (with the right intentions, to help ensure a project doesn’t suddenly ‘go south’).

However by focusing on the negatives and expecting ourselves to fail, we’re creating a self-fulling prophecy where that failure comes true. As a result, we’re more likely to consider our goals unfeasible, experience feelings such as a stress or anger and ultimately give up.

If that’s the case for negative expectancy, what happens if we shift our mindset to one of positive expectancy, where we fundamentally believe that we will succeed in our endeavors?

Here is a great article that answers this based on a number of studies: https://www.psychologytoday.com/sg/blog/the-new-you/201409/expect-more-yourself-you-ll-get-it

The key takeaways for me include:

  • An ability to not let difficult circumstances or ‘bumps in the road’ prevent us from ultimately accomplishing goals
  • If things don’t go to plan, the journey doesn’t end. We simply re-assess the situation and continue down a different path towards our goals
  • Overall, our current and future performance increases substantially and we may even unlock hidden potential from within ourselves

So by approaching everything we do with a winning frame of mind, seeing only opportunities in obstacles and learning in setbacks, we can create a different self-filling prophecy for ourselves — one where our success will become reality.

As mentioned in the article, positive expectancy isn’t just about ourselves either. This mindset can have an incredible impact on those around us. People can become more inspired and motivated to achieve a shared goal. Their contribution can increase significantly, as they discover their desire and courage to take more proactive action and adopt greater responsibility.

Consider also, how your attitude towards fellow humans may also change as a result of having positive expectancy for them. Too often in workplaces in particular, people are still viewed as inherently lazy or incompetent, and consequently their talents and potential is never fully utilized.

If we approach others with the mentality that they will absolutely be successful in a way that only they themselves can truly define, the question then becomes: how can we as leaders can best serve them and enable them to flourish holistically?