You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you.
― Lisa Kleypas, Love in the Afternoon
They are something we all have, from the time we are young, right on up through the time we take our final breath.
Yet, even though expectations are clearly a huge part of our lives, few of us truly learn to set appropriate expectations and manage them well.
All of the wishes, desires, hopes, and wants we carry around, which are never really quite fulfilled, have the power to greatly influence the satisfaction and happiness we experience in our lives. Like so many things in our existence, when we think something “should” happen in a particular way, it closes out all other possibilities and we miss out on a lot of great things in life.
And what is worse, consistently facing unfulfilled expectations can create conflict in relationships. Additionally, it leads to miserable experiences, and most importantly — kills our confidence in ourselves to manifest the life we truly desire.
However, when you learn to set realistic and appropriate expectations and learn how to be open for the various outcomes that the universe might bring, you also open yourself to a happier and more positive outlook on life.
You will experience fewer disappointments and feel less discouraged about your path, making it easier to trust in the process of life and truly enjoy your present, instead of worrying about the future.
If you find yourself consistently disappointed in yourself and by the people and situations in your life, it’s time to check in with your expectations.
Here are a few tips to help you examine and adjust your expectations as necessary.
1. Examine The Expectations Of Self
You should always strive for growth and improvement, but are your goals in small, achievable steps or big swooping actions?
Trying to get everything done perfectly all at once will prevent you from taking consistent action toward your goal. Likewise, it will often leave you feeling depressed and disappointed in your abilities — which can only breed negative self-talk!
Reasonable Expectation: Start putting an extra $100 a month towards bills to get out of debt more quickly.
Unreasonable Expectation: Consistently think about how you can pay off all $10,000 of student loan debt.
How to Adjust: Begin by listing out some of the major expectations you have in your life (become debt free, lose weight, find your soul mate, etc.). Then, create a list of 5–7 actionable items for each major life area. For example, a list for becoming debt free might look like this:
- Gather all the information about my creditors.
- Make a spreadsheet with all of my debts.
- Calculate my current budget. Find out how much is reasonable to cut so that I can put a little extra towards my debts.
- Contact creditors to negotiate interest rates.
- Seek help from my accountant planner or accountant, if necessary.
- Begin putting the extra amount on my smallest bill. Pay consistently until paid off.
- Celebrate success!
Will you be debt free immediately? No. But will you be debt free if you follow the steps? Absolutely!
Don’t berate yourself because you “should” be debt free or “should” have more money or “should” make better financial decisions.
Those unrealistic expectations only prevent you from dealing with the actual situation and keep you feeling stuck and powerless.
2. Reconsider Your Expectations of Others
Have a mental list of everything your partner, friends, or co-workers should be doing to make you happy? Sorry sweetie, it just doesn’t work that way!
When we hold expectations of others’ behavior and link it to our own happiness, it is a recipe for disaster.
Reasonable Expectation: I will stay at work a half hour later every day to finish all my tasks so that I do not have to take work home.
Unreasonable Expectation: Everyone should be willing to put the same amount of effort into his or her job as I do.
How to Adjust: Remember — your expectations are not the same as everyone else’s!
Instead, focus on ways you can give and make a balanced and positive situation for all. Respect your boundaries and look for ways you can make yourself comfortable and happy in the situation.
3. Release Your Expectations of Events
Just like setting expectations for others, when you put all of your hopes and dreams into the outcome of a specific event, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Try to enter into events for the intrinsic value of the situation, not for the outcome you hope to produce.
Reasonable Expectation: Going on a date because the person seems interesting and you’ve been dying to try the new restaurant they suggested.
Unreasonable Expectation: Going on a date because you are looking for a partner and are desperate to get married, so you are hoping this one will be the one!
How to Adjust: Stay focused on what attracted you to participate in a specific event or situation, apart from potential outcomes. Make a list of all the positive things you can gain from the experience itself, and what emotions it could bring to your life.
For example, a list about a potential date might look like:
It feels exciting to meet new people.
I feel happy about getting to go out — it’s been a while.
I’m ecstatic about wearing that new dress I just bought!
When you set realistic expectations for yourself, those people around you, and your life situations, you’ll avoid a lot of the bumps and bruises that come from disappointment, and enjoy a happier, more fulfilling life.