Each and every one of us has varying degrees of self-expectation; you know, thoughts on what we can and cannot do and achieve. Society in general loves expectations, because it can attach varying levels of this to each group of people that make up its ranks.
Now, I don’t know about you, but meeting such expectations and surpassing them, is a bit of a double edged sword for me. Personally, I’ve always set myself very high standards and levels of achievement, which have often clashed with the low expectations of society in general. However, achieving can, at times legitimise these lower expectations because you can often hear and read the words ‘so and so has achieved this despite their difficulties/disability/visual impairment etc etc’. In this blog, I’m going to use some examples of where I’ve managed to follow my own goals; quite often against the tide of the thoughts and opinions of those around me. Certainly not meant in disrespect to others, but more in the light of making most of life iteslef and balancing the opinions to come to what I see as reasonable expectations for myself.
This week, two occurrences helped me to think more about this and to look at the true motivation of surpassing self-expectation.
Many years ago (do I really have to count them), I was faced with a bit of an educational quandary. I had just finished secondary school and was about to embark into further education and seemingly my a-levels. It was expected that I should go to a specialist college as for one they gave the better all-round support and two, it would give me the best chance to go onto University and achieve greater things in life. My thoughts were mixed at the time, because I knew that to help me have the greater opportunities in studying and working in a sighted world, I had to dive straight into it sooner rather than later. Although, I initially went onto a specialist college for the visually impaired, I never could settle because my thoughts and expectations were not in this. Many people at the time, who learned of my thoughts, would tell me that they would never work and that I wouldn’t achieve much if I decided to go to a mainstream college; certainly my desire to go to university would be scuppered.
I did follow my instincts; I left the college and went into mainstream education. Yes, there were barriers, obstacles and many difficulties, but my drive and motivation was to achieve and the fears and warnings of others, although meant in a kindly way, were proven to be misplaced. I met and even surpassed my own goals by going to university, graduating from there and finally achieving post graduate qualifications too. Would the same have happened, however, if I had kept with the expected norm?
Bringing things more up to date, I like to go to live sports events; especially football matches. Yes, I cannot see the action on the pitch but it’s a great day out and usually the atmosphere is fantastic. Now, many people have said to me why do you bother going to such things when you cannot see what’s going on. You know, you miss out so much when you cannot see and it’s pointless trying to get involved in these things if you’re unable to pick up what’s going on around you. Interesting point but again a low expectation based on an experience based on sight alone. If, for instance, I held this thought, would there be any point to life at all? As the greater proportion of information that people learn and take in is visual, it is hard for many individuals to value the use of their other senses. However, life is not just about seeing, because so much can be gained from experience by simply being there. Sports events, for instance, are about being part of the atmosphere, the noise, the sensation and the whole feeling of the occasion. General expectations may not suggest that football matches are places to go, but as we’ve seen, social expectations are based on visual assumption and can often be misplaced; if not deliberately so. Now, should I mention Blind football itself and set on another discussion re what is expected and what is not? Ah maybe best for another time.
If you have a goal that you want to follow and you have practically assessed, evaluated and planned the way to achieve this, and then why not follow your own expectations. They’re based on what you can do; not necessarily on how others expect you to live.