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  • There Are No Rules

Have High Expectations for Yourself

Categories: Fun, General.

I’m honored & privileged to be included in a round-up of advice on how to beat back low expectations and live an audacious life.

You can click here to read all 19 tips.

Here’s mine:

If you want to make a change in your life, you need to own the change and declare to yourself (and to the world, if you must) exactly what you are, right at this moment.

Too many people think they have to go through a long, arduous process of “working” on themselves, or that they have to prove to others they’ve changed. If you want to be bold, then you can be whatever it is you want at the very moment you decide it. It’s our own fear or lack of self-confidence that prevents us from taking ownership TODAY of who we want to become—or who we want to BE from this moment onward.

In true editor fashion, I’d like to go back and amend what I said. I want to clarify: “If you want to be bold, then act exactly like whomever you want to be, at the moment you decide it.”

  • If we want to be a writer, then we act like writers. (We write.)
  • If we want to be more active (or healthy), then we act the way healthy people act.
  • If we want to be less anxious people, then we act in ways that reduce our anxiety.

What I don’t mean to say is that you can just be whatever you want by declaring it. (E.g., you can be an expert on XYZ just by saying so.)

Rather, I’m thinking in terms of how we often wish we would behave or act in a certain way, or admire qualities, in other people, that we wish we had.

And so we just keep on wishing and hoping. Sometimes we don’t commit, or sometimes we think we have to go through a long and arduous journey in order to meaningfully change.

In this, I have to admit to being a disciple of Alan Watts’ view:

You may almost be sure, then, that some kind of clericalism, some kind of highly refined spiritual racket, is at work when stress is laid upon the suffering and discipline, the endurance and the willpower … trying to pretend to oneself that a life of constant self-frustration is in fact great spiritual attainment.

Or, looked at from another point of view:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” (Goethe)

When we think too much (or question too much) whether we can do something or change something, rest assured it’s probably better to just go do it (or change it). Or: Fail, and become all the wiser for it.

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7 Responses to Have High Expectations for Yourself

  1. Grier Cooper says:

    Thank you for sharing this. The reminder about taking action and living "as if" in the here and now is powerful and feels like a good way to begin…anything.

  2. All good advice, but I like your last sentence best. I’ve learned far more from my failures than I have my successes. A parable I often stated to my students when I was teaching is similar: I told them I considered an exam to be successful if no one aced it. If a student gets a perfect score, how does the professor know how much better he or she could have done? Maybe that’s draconian, but I think our haste to reach perfection in writing can go too far. A writer who strives to write the perfect novel will never finish a book.

  3. Sally says:

    Jane, this is a wonderful post/ approach and well-timed at the beginning of the year when we all make "resolutions." I would add it is important to visit this place of ownership often (practice), because it is so easy to slip back into our well-programmed mental obstacles. Laura Day’s book "The Circle" talks about this in depth using the word embodiment. Her book may be a bit "fringe" for some people, but it has some terrific kernels on the subject of change using the approach you are talking about.

    p.s. Happy new year!

  4. It is good you qualified the difference between doing and wishing to do. I read this blog every day. Most days I come away with a bauble or two to delight my mind. Today, you strung out a lovely necklace of baubles.

    Thanks for this blog in general and for this post in particular :)

  5. dolores hoffman says:

    Jane,

    Nicely said. I often get discouraged with my confidence in writing poetry. I am a bit of a layman and hope to quiet the negative voice in me and just "act like a poet" and write.

  6. Jenn Crowell says:

    Great to see you in that round-up, Jane (and great advice, too). Though my editorial brain had to chuckle at the fact that they listed you as blogging for Reader’s Digest.

  7. Exactly what I needed to hear today, Jane. I met with a writing partner last night for a few hours, and we encouraged each other along similar lines. We’ve both got books-in-progress and struggle with making writing a priority over other things in our lives. "If we want to be a writer, we act like writers. (We write.)" Thanks so much for this.

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