“If I can just make it past this first mile,” I told myself as I fought the urge to stop and go back home. It was one of those early morning runs and I was huffing and puffing like a chain smoker. My shoes felt like someone had filled them with cement. Every step forward was more difficult than the last. But as I passed the first mile hurdle, I gained momentum that brought more ease into my run as I pushed forward.
I call the first mile the bare minimum approach. It sounds harmless but when allowed to fester, it can erode our innate ability to be and do better. This approach to life stagnate our progress and relegates us to a “less than” prescribed way of living. This mindset creates a ceiling preventing us from further pursuing exposure to the “next mile” where most people don’t go. It’s in the next mile where ceilings are broken, momentum builds, the air is less crowded, and the door that aligns creativity and productivity opens. While we may think that the bare minimum approach requires less energy, consider days when you decide to do nothing or as little as possible only to end up tired.
The bare minimum approach carries the comfort of meeting expectations which in itself seems like a win. But, on a deeper level simply meeting expectations robs us of the chance to stretch ourselves and plant seeds for future opportunities. Your present actions become the preparation for future opportunities. I consider it worth taking the risk to maximize potential by going the extra mile, than to use a fraction of my potential all the while never realizing that I had the raw material for greater productivity stored within me.
Now, from that background, how do we become expectation exceed-ers rather than simply expectation meet-ers?
- Dare to ask: The right questions always take conversations deeper and pull out what wasn’t available without the question. It’s a question like, “Do you need some help?” that can create a path to serve someone and create a lasting memory. If you can ask the right people the right questions you will stand out in a crowd. For example, if you ask your supervisor or manager, “Is there anything else you would like me to do?” or if they are not threatened by your desire to learn, “Could you show me how to _____” which may be something out of your job description. They are daring questions because they put us in positions where we are vulnerable to the response of the other person. But they also put us in positions to learn and grow. On the other side of the dare is the land of extraordinary, where those satisfied with continuing the status quo of only meeting expectations cannot live. What is the question(s) that you must ask to intentionally put yourself on the path to exceed expectations and not just meet them?
- Daily make the pursuit: It’s what we do daily that carries the highest probability of becoming a habit in our lives. Elon Musk says, “I’d like to get into the habit of exceeding expectations.” First, this habit starts with a shift in our way of thinking. Second, become passionate about exceeding expectations. No one pursued anything long enough to see results unless they were equally passionate about it. Third, elevate your value system and develop an internal resolve not only to do better but be better. This is the engine that will drive your pursuit to be a peak performer by exceeding expectations. This in turn will multiply your influence and enhance your value in the lives of others. After you have made the ask, internalize the response, shift your thinking to the higher level of exceeding expectations and daily pursue the goal with passion. People will always take note of someone who exceeds expectations. Do you have a daily action plan to exceed expectations in everything you do?
- Don’t Go Back, Go Up: Let’s agree, up is always harder than back. It takes no effort or energy to drift back, it simply requires doing nothing. Leadership expert John Maxwell talks about the beauty of exceeding expectations when he says, “This (exceeding expectations) opened doors for me.” He then continued by giving an added insight, “But I knew that an open door can close quickly if you don’t continue trying to exceed expectations, so I made it a continual goal, and it has become a lifestyle within me.” Continuing to exceed expectations is what the most successful companies do. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group which controls over 400 companies says, “The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not just meet them but exceed them preferably in unexpected but helpful ways.” The practice of exceeding expectations will put you in a proactive position. Instead of trying to keep up, you will be operating at an altitude where competition and comparison are weightless.
Challenge Corner: How do you approach your day? Are you simply looking to merely meet expectations and how can you raise the bar and start exceeding them? Allow the curiosity of the “extra mile” to become a compass directing you to a lifestyle of exceeding expectations. You will always win as an expectation exceed-er and set yourself up for greater opportunities in future!
Keep on Keeping on!