Your Success Thought for the Week of April 26, 2006

Wayne Dyer tells an insightful story about a man who sees a spider trying to get out of a sink. Instinctively the man puts his finger down to help the spider and the spider bites him. The man shakes it off and again, in an effort to save the spider, puts his finger in the sink. Once again, the spider bites him.

Wayne’s synopsis: "That’s what spiders do, they bite when threatened. Why would anyone expect anything else?" We’ve all been guilty of looking through the same lens. We assume that people will change merely because we expect them to. And then, we’re greatly disappointed when they don’t change according to our wishes.

It’s all too easy for each of us to look at another’s life and assume to know what is best for them. We find ourselves stating: “If he would only ____ or if she would stop _____, they would be so much better off.” We’ve not walked in their shoes. We can’t possibly know everything there is to know about their values, motives or goals.

The key to expecting people to change is to be very certain of what you are getting yourself into. People don’t like to change ,but when they do, they'd prefer that it’s their choice, not yours.

Questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is it possible for this person to change? If not, how can I adjust my expectations?
  • What would motivate them to make this change?
  • What do I really want?
  • Is this a reasonable or unreasonable expectation?
  • How will they benefit from the change?
  • Who else will benefit?
  • Will anyone be hurt?
  • How does this fit in with my perception of their goals, values or beliefs?

If you choose to proceed, find a way to express your need in a manner in which it is heard by your recipient. Abraham Lincoln said: “As I plan to confront another, I spend one third of the preparation time thinking of what I’m going to say, and two thirds anticipating what they’ll say.”

No one wants to be told to change. Putting your suggestion in the form of a question or innocent statement of curiosity (What if you were to approach it in this manner?) leaves more space for the recipient to adjust. Give them this time to process. They may come back to you with their own creative version which is much better than yours.

There’s nothing wrong with high expectations. In fact, that is why you take the time to read these 'success thoughts’ each week. You expect yourself to grow and change and stay ahead of your game. On some level, you expect those around you to do the same.

However, when we set unreasonably high expectations for ourselves and others, we set ourselves up for failure. It was unreasonable to expect the spider want to change his behavior. Oftentimes, we’re not aware of how high we’ve set our own expectations, nor do we question them or realize how damaging they could be when we set them for others.

Begin this week by looking into the people or situations that irritate you. What are your expectations? How can you initiate a change? Is it up to you to simply modify your expectations, or do you want to delicately initiate a change in another? I would spend more time looking inward to see what I can change before approaching another.

Enjoy your discoveries and have an outstanding week!


Ann Golden Eglé, MCC
Executive Coach & President
Golden Visions Success Coaching, LLC

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