Expectations Mismatches & Moon Men

Frustrated expectations are difficult to overcome.

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Graphic: Johnny Automatic

“You do something right ONCE and they
hold it against you for the rest of your life!”

~ Mel Levine

One of the complaints you often hear about ADD/EFDers (and all of us struggling with kludgy Executive Functioning) is that our cognitive and functional abilities are erratic.

In posts to come, I will share with you what I have discovered about WHY that it so: why our behavior seems so unpredictable, and what we can do to change that perception.

I would like to introduce you to some of the theories and concepts that underlie the manner in which I work with Executive Functioning Deficits of all types — a way that allows you to put the pieces together so that you understand what you need to DO to be able to drive your own brain — without the constant fear that it will break down on the road!

Prediction is key

An ability to predict the impact of your particular combination of cognitive challenges allows you to realign expectations realistically, so that you can design action plans that are likely to succeed. Almost more important, through prediction’s crystal ball you will be able to design action plans that produce the kind of results that are more likely to be perceived by others as successful.

Subsequent posts will say more about learning to predict yourself. I want to begin by tackling the “perception of others” part of the equation.

In this post I want to describe an unconscious dynamic in our society that makes it tough for ALL of us, but especially for those of us with Executive Functioning Deficits.

It is very difficult to allow yourself the experience of success when the feedback that surrounds you focuses primarily on real or imagined “shortcomings.” And it happens ALL the time. What’s up with THAT?

Remember that you can always check out the sidebar
for a reminder of how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

HOVER before clicking – often a box will appear to tell you what to expect

Man on the Moon Thinking

“If they can put a man on the moon, why on earth
can’t they . . . [fill in the blank]??!”

We humans tend to look at ourselves and each other with an expectation that we live up to our potential. Unfortunately, potential has almost always been defined, unconsciously, as being equally effective in all arenas.

Man on the Moon Thinking and School

As long as little Susie brings home a report card full of C’s, Mom and Dad know what to expect. They are thrilled with an occasional B, but they are not disappointed if Susie maintains her solid C performance.

If her brother Bobby’s grades are all over the map, even if his high grades cluster in certain subjects with his low grades in others — and even if his GPA is higher than his sister’s – everybody slips into problem-solving mode.

What’s even worse, expectations are set, not by baseline abilities, but by the highest standard of behavior demonstrated consistently in ANY area of life!

If Bobby is able to make an A in a few subjects, he should be able to ace them ALL.

  • Because he brings home A’s, the Bs become a problem.
  • Anything below a B is an out and out crises!

It is the rare parent who will look at Bobby’s skills profile, suspecting that something was missing — some foundational skill that suddenly became necessary, or that he was tripping over the edges of a learning disability — as a possible explanation for the ‘bad’ grades.

Most parents will conclude that Bobby isn’t hitting the books hard enough!

Man on the Moon Thinking and Work

It is an even rarer supervisor or employer who will notice, for example, that a Sales Manager needs a completely different skill set from the one that created his success as a salesman.

  • If a newly promoted employee can master his former position, he should be able to handle the new one at the same level of competency.
  • His subsequent performance reviews are based on that assumption.
  • The Peter Principle in action!

Workers are promoted to their level of incompetence because of unrealistic expectations, and job satisfaction is replaced by supervisory disdain.

The beat goes on!

Man on the Moon Thinking just about everywhere

Color reproduction of a 10 cent stamp "First Man on the Moon", drawing of Armstrong stepping our of the capsule, with earyth in background

If they can put a man on the moon,
why on earth can’t they figure out
how keep cell phones from dropping calls?!

Yeah, the lazy bums . . .

Never mind that “putting a man on the moon” has very little to do with cell phone connectivity, demonstrated excellence in one area has raised the standard of expectations across the board.

Perhaps you might have a leg to stand on in favor of universally high global expectations when groups of people – organizations, corporations and governments – assemble TEAMS to create results.

Even then, the skill-set to accountabilities matching must be excellent to stand a shot at excellent results across the board.

At the level of the single individual, it is a totally unrealistic expectation.

NOBODY is universally excellent in ALL arenas. We all have our areas of brilliance as well as our, shall we say, growing edges. You know that. I know that. He, she and it knows that!

And still . . .

Man on the Moon Thinking

  • filters our expectations unrealistically,
  • negatively affects how we feel about ourselves,
  • limits what we are willing to attempt, and
  • lowers the level of self-esteem with which we interact with others.

How many examples of Man on the Moon Thinking have YOU heard?

Next time, pay attention to the tone of voice.

I have observed that it usually ranges from simple frustration
to frustrated entitlement.

  • Not only has universal excellence become the unconscious expectation, people are annoyed when they don’t see it!
  • Each of us has internalized those global expectations to some degree.
  • Our language is full of terms and platitudes that quantify our unconscious bias, for example, “imposter syndrome” – “dilettante” — and one of my personal favorites, “A thing worth doing is worth doing well.”
    (Ahem! If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly too – but few of us say THAT!)

Pushing a Rope

You know what happens when you try to push a rope, right?  Lots of side to side action but no forward progress. It’s the same thing when we insist on accomplishment without taking the time to figure out what’s beneath lack of accomplishment.

Bad idea!

It’s bad enough that Man on the Moon Thinking undercuts motivation and expectations of success but that’s not its biggest threat to accomplishment.

Man on the Moon Thinking keeps most of us from the wild successes we could have if we approached life another way because . . .

  • Every minute we work on strengthening a weakness, we are unconsciously affirming that we are not good enough.
  • That, in turn, makes us feel defensive.
  • Defensive people tend to keep pushing on locked doors. They usually do NOT choose to figure out how to buck the tide to accomplish objectives in a different way – a way that works for them – a way that builds on strengths rather then compensating for deficits.

Strategizing for Success

Never let what you can’t do become more important than what you CAN.

In my mind, the first step on the road to success is to determine exactly where your energies will be best leveraged, organizing your life to avoid areas of struggle whenever possible.

We need to STOP allowing the expectations of others to shame us into giving a “substandard” area more energy than it’s worthand we must be very careful that we don’t do it to ourselves.

The next step needs to be the identification of what keeps getting in the way of demonstrating our brilliance – to be able to focus on strengthening only those Challenges that are holding us back

Finally, we need to figure out how we need to approach each task.

  • Individual differences mandate different approaches
    – in sports, in school, at the office and in life!
  • We have to understand our cognitive strengths and limitations as well as our other physical apparatus if we expect to be winners
  • We need to “Rewrite our Owners Manuals™,” so that we can understand how to drive our own brains.

© 2011, 2013, 2017, all rights reserved
Check bottom of Home/New to find out the “sharing rules”
(reblogs always okay, and much appreciated)

The above text is excerpted from
The Challenges Inventory eBook™
the second of the twelve eBooks
in the upcoming Optimal Functioning eBook Series™
2000, 2006, 2011-2013 Madelyn Griffith-Haynie,
ALL rights reserved

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There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

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You might also be interested in some of the following articles
available right now – on this site and elsewhere.

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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  9. Wow! I’m so glad you are back! I am really looking forward to getting to know you better…I feel like I just discovered a soul sister! I’ve been thinking a lot about the “trust” and how much pressure we as a culture put on people to live up to expectations and follow though. “If you say you’ll do it, then do it.” ugh. Real trust is not about keeping all your promises, it’s about trusting in yourself and others to deal with it well when the world DOESN’T live up to your expectations. It about broadening our range of expectations beyond, “what I think will happen actually WILL happen. That’s so machine age! I love the way you think Madelyn…and I gladly accept whatever you are willing to share and I could care less about the typos etc. I WILL look past all that to see the value. Thank you for sharing and for lighting the path for people like me to work in the field of coaching.


    • WOW, Ariane – WHAT an endorsement. Thank you.

      And you know you are the very first “real” comment I have gotten on my practically brand new blog, so I feel like a kid at Christmas when Dad quickly added the batteries to a toy left by Santa: Hey, it works! How cool is THAT?! Somewhere here is supposed to be some way I can find out how you found me, but I haven’t learned to drive that part yet, so I’ll ask, How did you find me?

      Other than 1-a quick comment at the top of ADDCoach.com, 2-a couple of posts on ADDerWorld (which I just signed on to TODAY in response to Kate Kelly’s invite to help her launch discussion on her ADD in the Spirit community discussion site), and 3-a share to FaceBook (which has languished for eons while I worked over here, posted ONLY because I wanted to help publicize ADDerWorld *and* it was one-click easy!), I have not begun to “market” — even to the extent of announcing the location of this site (or that I’m even still alive TO announce anything). I’m guessing it had to be one of those. I doubt the search engines have picked this up yet.

      I love THIS in your post: “Real trust is not about keeping all your promises, it’s about trusting in yourself and others to deal with it well when the world DOESN’T live up to your expectations” YES!

      I’m looking forward to more of this kind of thing. How fun!

      As soon as I figure out how to get the PayPal payment gateway working correctly (so I don’t frustrate the poor souls eager to learn how to enroll and work with a Peer to save some money), I’ll explore what you’re up to and leave a comment or three (I’m not really know for my brevity!)


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