“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation”.
A lot of motivational quotes we see spread around revolve around setting high expectations and having great hope for the future and trust me this article isn’t here to bum you out! It’s helpful to be optimistic about what the future holds, as research has shown a relationship between optimism, resilience, and psychological wellbeing. However, some of us tend to associate optimism with guaranteed positive outcomes in life; leading us to exhibit high expectations and in turn generate disappointment. It’s easy to believe that with hard work we can control every aspect of our lives to go as we please, that’s what most of us have been told our whole childhood.
“Believe you can, and you will” “Reach for the stars”
Such generic quotes disregard the many factors that will influence how certain results will unravel. They lead us to expect that everything will go exactly according to plan. They lead us to expect perfection. I may believe that I can achieve a full split in two weeks based on a mobile application’s guarantee that they will help me do so, but perhaps my body anatomy may lead me to see slower progress. Progress is still progress; however, if I hold on to this high expectation, it will most likely disappoint me and may hinder my motivation to carry on. I may even give up the goal altogether. So, what’s an alternative expectation or goal regarding this example? I may instead consult a professional trainer on my techniques and when should I expect clear results. By consistently taking pictures for comparisons, I can track if I am getting closer to my goal, without placing rigid and unrealistic expectations on how long it will take. A part of why high expectations is slowly spreading to such large populations is due to the constant display of happiness on social media. People mainly post their most successful, happy, and exciting moments on their profiles, and when we’re at our worst or even during our “meh” moments, being exposed to that content sometimes leads us to believe that this is the life that we should be living 24/7. Some may believe that by reaching goals tied to such high expectations, then they will be happy, or others will approve of them.
“You’re human; with good and bad days, good intentions, and your own limitations.”
To put it simply, we have to be mindful of the reality we live in. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to take note of the “human error” when managing our expectations of ourselves, of others, or even at our workplace.
Get up, work, sleep, repeat
Managing expectations at work
I’m sure everyone reading this wants to be successful in what they do for a living, and we sometimes place incredibly high expectations and goals regarding our jobs, which can sometimes be defeating when we don’t attain them. Certain work environments reward the “hard workers”, those who never take breaks, those who are “on top of their game”, but when overwhelming ourselves with such expectations, what good does it do for anyone? When we wake up every morning feeling anxious from the mountains of tasks, we scheduled for ourselves that day, how will this lifestyle be sustainable in the long run? Eventually, we will experience burnout and our productivity and motivation will decrease. So, there’s really no benefit coming from it. Aside from the hustling trend that’s been going around, never ever making mistakes is another unrealistic expectation, especially when you’re new to the job. How do you expect to learn if you don’t try and fail a couple of times?
Let’s then explore some tips to set realistic expectations from ourselves in the workplace:
- Asking for help
We often have the belief that we are viewed as more competent when we achieve all our goals by ourselves with zero input from anyone else, but this places an unnecessary load on ourselves when we are completely allowed to ask for support from others. We give ourselves grace and be kinder to ourselves, again, especially if we are new to the job.
- Realistic daily chores
“Are my expectations aligning with my time frame?”. Sometimes, to appear as accomplished and as possible, we say yes to too many requests without checking our availability, and we end up with too much on our plate with no time (or energy) to tackle them all. Being “yes” people sounds great in theory but will definitely lead to burnout in the long run. Learning to say no when necessary, will go a long way in sustaining our well-being in the workplace.
- Sharing tasks when possible
This brings me to the next point. Say you do have a ton of work assignments with incredibly close and inescapable deadlines, instead of going straight to sacrificing our wind-down time or perhaps our sleep time, we could try to reach those who can be delegated some of those tasks instead.
- Asking for feedback
Feedback works great for calming our anxious thoughts and providing us with the needed instructions on how to improve our performance without overworking ourselves. Asking for feedback helps us grow in our positions and when receiving positive feedback, we are reassured by the actions we are doing right, and we know what we should keep doing.
- Work-life (and fun) balance
Accomplishing the previous work-life adjustments will earn us enough free time to enjoy our lives outside the night-to-five. Be sure to utilise this time in whatever makes your soul happy! Some may find joy in spending time with loved ones, while others may find it indulging in a good book or tv series. The most important thing is to do what feels necessary for you at that given time.
Spread love and you shall receive it
Managing expectations with your friends
We were led to believe that always being kind to others will inevitably bring us happy relationships and friendships, but even in that life aspect; there tend to be unrealistically high expectations. So, how do we manage them?
- Communication is key
Nowadays, it's easier than ever to communicate with those around us (Facebook, WhatsApp, and so on), but this may place increasing pressure to be responsive to every single message received right when they're received. This could get overwhelming for us as we are normally busy with many things in our daily lives. We may even not be in the mood to talk right this second. One thing we can do is have clear communication with those around us and explain how we want the dynamics to work in a way that suits both parties. This goes hand-in-hand with expecting to talk to our friends every day, which can be difficult to maintain for some of us. Life can get in the way and we need to be compassionate towards each other and respect that we all may have other life events to attend to.
- Others' problems are not entirely your problems
Ever heard of the “fixer”? Ever felt like you may be expecting yourself to make all your loved ones’ problems disappear? Well, I’ve got news for you… You really don't need to. It's never realistic to be able to fix and erase everyone's problems, and it's never our job to do so. Sometimes, it's not even what others need from us. Listening and showing empathy goes a long way and might just be exactly what they need. It's important to start to say no to requests that don't align with our available time, energy, or goals and values, and it's okay to expect that others respect these aspects.
- Prioritize your boundaries
It may be that setting these boundaries may fuel up disagreements or arguments, but any friendship or relationship is bound to go through rough patches in order to ultimately grow stronger. Setting boundaries, expressing concerns, or communicating about aspects in the relationship that is bothering us will not make us be seen as bad people and should not make those around us feel differently about us.
I am imperfect and that's okay
Managing expectations with yourself
“Ever had a bad day? Yes? How dare you!”
Seems a bit harsh don’t you think? Could you ever picture yourself saying something similar to a close friend of yours? Or even to a stranger? No? Then why are you the exception?
We often are carried away by the belief that in order to achieve our highest potential we should never experience bad days, should never have negative emotions, should be on top of our game at all times, and God forbid we make one mistake. But (and I’m sure this may come as a surprise) these expectations are not the slightest bit realistic.
- Self-compassion not criticism
Picture someone you care about who is going through a difficult time and imagine how you would react to their problems. That compassion, empathy, and care is exactly what we should be giving ourselves in the times that we need it. It’s not fair to expect out of ourselves idealistic goals that no human would ever be capable of achieving and this puts us on a one-way road to disappointment.
- Go ahead, make mistakes!
Mistakes are inevitable and necessary in order for us to learn from them and grow. No one could ever predict every consequence of every action we take. We may only act according to the information we have at hand and hope for the best. And if we didn’t reach what we wanted? We try again with the new information we received from our setbacks. The most important tip I can give is to strive for progress, not perfection, where we are moving forward without placing too much pressure on ourselves.
- Challenge those expectations
Most importantly, we shouldn’t shy away from questioning our expectations and how realistic they are. When we are mindful of our capabilities and compassionate towards ourselves, we are then more likely to adjust our expectations to meet our reality.
“When one door closes, another one opens”
Life is full of surprises. We can stress and overwhelm ourselves to the point of exhaustion to maintain high expectations, but one thing’s for sure, we can never truly predict our outcomes in life. Whatever happens, the good and the bad, welcome it. When we sprinkle a bit of self-compassion and acceptance, we will release ourselves from those pesky high expectations.
"My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations." ― Michael J. Fox.