A Black woman who exceeds expectations at work.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Andrea Piacquadio

To Exceed Expectations, You Must Do the Unexpected

Everyone has expectations. It might be classroom expectations or work expectations. Family expectations or friend expectations. Or any mixture of these and more. However you slice it, everyone has certain expectations placed on them.

But not everyone exceeds expectations.

Want to get that promotion? Impress that date? Wow that professor? Here’s some advice on how to do more than is expected of you.

Doing the unexpected means going above and beyond

Doing more than is expected of you is to do the unexpected. And there are two main ways to do that. You can either completely ignore what’s expected of you and do your own thing, or you can do what’s expected of you and keep going, quite literally exceeding expectations. Both ways have the potential to work. But only one way is sure to work.

When you ignore what’s expected of you, you’re taking a risk. You’re gambling that doing things your way will lead to better results than if you did things as you’re expected to. Let’s say you’re taking a college class no one has ever gotten an A in. Ignoring what’s expected of you would be to never study at all and sleep-in, play foosball, and do whatever else you think is a better use of your time instead. There’s still a possibility you ace that course, shocking everybody. But it’s unlikely.

Alternatively, when you go above and beyond what’s expected of you, you’re not really taking much of a risk. Rather, you’re doing what’s expected of you and what isn’t expected. Keeping with the college class example, this would be studying the same amount of time as everyone else. And then studying even more, using different strategies. And scheduling office hours with the professor. And taking practice quizzes online. And, and, and. When you do this, you’re far more likely to do the unexpected and ace that course.

Going above and beyond expectations can be that simple. With just one catch: You must know the goal.

You must know the goal, not just the plan

Pretend you’re driving a car. If you only have a list of directions, you won’t be able to take a shortcut. And if you take a detour, you may never reach your destination. Because you won’t know your destination until you’ve followed all the directions. It’s the same thing with plans and goals. So if you want to go above and beyond expectations (the plan), you must know why the expectations are there to begin with (what the goal is).

Let’s go back to the college class example. For the entire class, the expectation, or plan, is that you study all the assigned texts (not to mention attend every class and complete every assignment). Because the goal is to learn enough about the subject to pass the class. If your personal goal is to do the unexpected and get an A, however, following the plan everyone else is following likely won’t be enough. That’s why you don’t limit yourself to that plan and instead leverage office hours, online practice quizzes, and more. But you can only go above and beyond as you do because you know what your goal is.

The same concept applies in the workforce. Knowing the plan isn’t enough. You must know a business’ goal, not just your specific responsibilities, if you want to exceed what’s expected of you in a way that drives the business closer to its desired results. 

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you have classroom expectations or work expectations, high expectations or low expectations. To go above and beyond, you must know the goal being pursued. 

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