The chant of the little engine that could is a child-like reminder of the role expectations play in performance. Henry Ford put it this way: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.

In training for my coaching certification I was introduced to a model developed by the Self Management Group. Performance is the result of the interaction of Talents, Opportunities and Habits. Talents are our inherited potential. We can develop it up to a point. We can prepare ourselves to take advantage of Opportunities, but we are dependent upon if and when they come along. The greatest leverage in the performance equation comes from our Habits. The dynamics over which we have the most control, habits influence whether and how we expand our talents and manage opportunities.

There are two kinds of habits that influence performance, habits of thought and habits of behavior; our attitude and our effort. Pulling a long train of cars up and over a mountain pass was a huge challenge for the little engine. With an optimistic attitude and a sustained effort she did it!

Returning to expectations, how many of us limit our potential by expecting too little of ourselves? And how many of us pass on the sustained effort it takes to pull an apparently heavy load?

Let’s ask ourselves. What train load of cars awaits our engine? What attitude will serve us best in hitching up? What will it take to move forward each day a little bit at a time until we reach the top of our mountain pass?