On my first day of graduate school, I sat in a lecture where a veteran professor (literally, a former military man) spoke to us about what to expect during our graduate school careers. When a student asked him what single piece of advice he would give to new graduate students, he thought for a moment before simply and quite sternly stating, “Violate expectations.”
The months that followed seemed to fly by – a blur of papers, presentations, exams, and long workdays. But those two words continued to stick with me each day, remaining silently but powerfully in the back of my head. At first they sounded somewhat aggressive; the word “violate” comes off a little harsh. But the more I explored the meaning of those two words, the more I realized that it’s not an angry or aggressive command; it’s a powerful challenge to go beyond what you and everyone else believes you are capable of.
While I don’t like to make “New Year's Resolutions,” (who actually gets to keep those anyway?) I think that it is important to begin the New Year with a positive attitude and with an idea of what kind of energy you want to infuse into your year. So for me, my 2014 resolution is to take on the challenge of “violating expectations.”
Violate Your Own Expectations
I have almost always felt in my element when practicing yoga, and I attribute that largely to the fact that I was signed up for ballet class when I was two years old and continued for the next 15 years. However, the first time I stepped foot in a hot yoga class, I thought…I was going…to DIE.
And even though my first hot yoga class felt like the longest 90 minutes of my life, I was determined that it wouldn’t be my last and I kept going back. It is now one of my favorite, most therapeutic times. This year, I would really like to incorporate running into my routine, though if you ask anyone in my family if I run, their token response is, “Only if she’s being chased,” which has for so long been true. However, I would really like to challenge myself this year to embrace running and push past any initial discomfort to see if I might actually start to enjoy it.
While I wouldn’t dare write down something like, “Run a marathon” as a New Years Resolution, I’m willing to take on the challenge of seeing just how far I can go. What are your personal goals that you’d like to achieve? Are there any hurdles that you’ve found difficult to cross over in the past that you’d like to give another try this year?
Do it. Violate your own expectations about what you feel you are capable of and see what you can accomplish. Who knows what 2014 might have in store.
Violate The Expectations Of Others
My sweet friend Lauren was recently leaving a shopping center on a very crowded holiday weekend, and noticed a homeless woman alone in the parking lot. Concerned for her, Lauren went up and engaged her in conversation. When the two were parting ways, the woman told Lauren that her simple act of showing love without judgment for her living situation actually stopped her from her plan to end her life later that day. Hearing this story reminded me that our society maintains certain expectations of how we interact with each other, be they good or bad.
It’s so easy to get caught up in our own to-do lists and worries that we forget that we often have the ability to better someone else’s day or situation. While it’s not always possible to go that extra mile, when we are able, why not go beyond what is expected of us? Even if it’s saying a nice word to a stranger, or sending a friend an unexpected gift to show him how much he is appreciated, a little can go a long way.
A new year always brings new challenges, but my favorite thing about the clock striking midnight is that it brings a fresh start and countless new opportunities. Let’s use these opportunities to push ourselves further and to accomplish new personal goals, but also to go beyond what is expected of us for those around us.
“Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.” – Orison Swett Marden