“Meets Expectations.” Is there anything more frustratingly disappointing than that? I mean, at least if something fails to meet the expectations you can feel good about feeling bad, right? But if something does exactly what it is supposed to do, why does that feel like such a let down? Have we been conditioned to want more than we should? Do we live in an age of 110%? Are these unrealistic expectations slowly poisoning us?
My family went to see “The Lego Movie” the weekend it came out. Ooooooh, man, we were excited for that one! The reviews were amazing, the previews pumped me up in the best way, and I went in expecting a movie that was funny, smart, well-done, and right up my alley. What I got, was a movie that was funny, smart, well-done, and right up my alley. It was great! It was exactly as great as I had thought it would be. Coming out of the theater my wife asked me what I thought, and I realized that I felt a little disappointed. What I wanted was for the movie to have been more great than my expectations. But I had set the bar impossibly high! I was hoping for the greatest animated movie of the year, and I got it! How could it be better than that?! And yet, I felt empty.
On elementary school report cards, the children do not get “A”s and “B”s and “F”s and whatnot. They are graded on a sliding scale, that is different at different schools, but at every school I have ever attended, sent my children to, or heard about, there are basically three tiers. Sometimes they are shapes (Star! Diamond! Circle! Square! Angry Face!) and sometimes they are letters (S! U! E! M!) or numbers (1! 2! 3! 23!), but they mean the same things. Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations, or Does Not Meet Expectations. And most kids get most categories marked with the “Meets Expectations” pen. Which means that the child is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. They are right where they need to be, learning at the proper pace to put them on a track for success.
But oh, how quickly we scan the paper for any of those coveted “Exceeds Expectations” marks. “Meets Expectations” is so…boring! Why isn’t our child exceeding every expectation that is set in front of them?! Why aren’t they going above and beyond in everything?! Clearly they are superior to all other children on the planet! Why is this not being recognized?! Do we need to schedule a special conference with the teacher?! The principal?! The mayor?! Call the police! My child is meeting expectations! Something is wrong!
Objectively, I can look at all of this and find it ridiculous. If everyone did more than what was expected all of the time, then what was expected would change, and suddenly everyone would just be meeting the new, higher expectation. Which is what happens at a lot of offices, I’m sorry to say. There is no reason for all of you to be working 12 hour days. Please. Go home. See your families. Don’t be sucked in by all of these other bar-raising jerks. No, meeting expectations is fine, right? As long as you are expecting something good. At least it should be. Now, if only my brain could convince my societally encrusted heart.