Core Knowledge Blog has an interesting post on The Low Risk of High Expectations.
Aiming high and falling short doesn’t lead to long-term psychological problems, concludes John R. Reynolds, a Florida State sociology professor, in Is There a Downside to Shooting for the Stars? in the American Sociological Review.
“My previous research showed that teenagers are increasingly unrealistic about what they will be able to achieve,” Reynolds said. “I wanted to see if there is anything wrong with that trend. Lots of theories predict that unmet goals will lead to frustration and anxiety. We were very surprised to find out that over-ambition is not a big concern, at least not from a mental health perspective.”
The study found no long-term emotional costs of aiming high and falling short when it comes to educational aspirations. “We should not be in a hurry to dissuade these students from planning to go to college,” Reynolds said. “In fact, the only way to guarantee negative mental health outcomes is not trying. Aiming high and failing is not consequential for mental health, while trying may lead to higher achievements and the mental and material benefits that go along with those achievements.”
Of course, it would be nice if students were told what they need to do in their K-12 years to realize their ambitions. I’ve met too many D students who say they want to be pediatricians.