I could certainly have benefitted from this question when I was younger. It took me many decades to realise that one of my deep concerns in life was not disappointing others. It clearly came from my childhood and some misguided attempt to manage people’s emotional well-being.

It can have significant consequences. For example, it led me to complete a 4-year law degree in which I fundamentally had no real interest. It has also led me to take on roles and responsibilities because I felt others expected it of me.

In truth, however, I need to take responsibility for my actions. Regardless of what expectations others may have had (or may continue to have) for me, the key is the expectations I set for myself. It is instead about following my own vision and not concerning myself with what others may or may not expect.

Because, doing otherwise, we risk failing ourselves. In my book, this is a much more serious affair than failing others.

Questions in the Image:

  • How do I feel I am disappointing others?
  • What expectations am I setting for myself?
  • How am I failing myself?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown (link to Amazon.co.uk). The author, a research professor at the University of Houston, explores the concepts of authenticity and self-acceptance. She provides insights and guidance on how to embrace your imperfections, live authentically and let go of the fear of not living up to others’ expectations.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. This topic has triggered a whole series of childhood memories around adults actively placing expectations on my shoulders – Don’t let me down! I wonder, how I might be doing this with my own children? With other children and younger people with whom I work?

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

How Might Tom Help?

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