So I got my results yesterday, and was quite surprised by how well I did. Things I didn’t expect to get A netted an A, what I expected to fail turned out to be a pass, and something that I thought might get an A got a B instead. This may sound familiar to you, and it sure does sound familiar to me. Almost every semester, I have never scored what I expected to score.
Does this mean we should stop expecting? Some people have taken this tack, and have decided to “take things as they come”, “let nature take its course”. That is of course a viable strategy, but I find that I cannot quite curb my thoughts. It is natural to have expectations, but what I think most vital is to be mentally prepared for anything, and to do your best.
Being mentally prepared is to start thinking practically what you would do if your expected outcome turns out differently. You don’t have to line up alternative plans, but what’s important is not to drive yourself into a corner. Keep an eye out for alternatives, or even something as simple as “if X doesn’t happen, I’ll start considering Y choices”. The greatest hurdle to overcome, most of the time, is disappointment. Keep yourself emotionally buffered and usually the future won’t look as bleak as at first glance.
The next thing to do is to do your best, which a surprising number of people don’t really do. Many people tend to expect that they wouldn’t do well, and so don’t see the meaning of putting in more effort. I agree that the best way to motivate a person is to succeed, even just once. A person, once successful, will be more reluctant to regress into failure again. If you haven’t succeeded before, it just seems like a fantasy, a possibility that doesn’t happen. So taking the first step to resolve to do it is the hardest, but subsequently it gets easier to get yourself pumped up.
And even if you don’t succeed, a certain mindset named defensive pessimism sometimes works for me too. Defensive pessimism means that you work hard not to succeed but to avoid failing. It sounds the same, but it isn’t. Defensive pessimists are motivated by anxiety. The thought of failing scares them and drives them on to avoid this reality. Optimists will never understand how this is healthy, but research has shown that defensive pessimists, when asked to think optimistically, actually do worse. So it’s not a good idea to get them to switch their way of thinking if it works for them. And defensive pessimists seize onto every chance to get better. They know that every little thing counts towards getting them just that bit away from failure. Even if the probability of them getting an A is slim, they’ll still slog their guts out because they think that even if they slack just a little, they’ll end up with the Dreaded D.
Different people manage expectations differently, but the main thing is to ensure that it works for you and doesn’t make you worse off. So try doing your best and see where it takes you!