Have you ever heard anyone say “where there’s no expectations there are no disappointments?”
This is a great place to be, but hey we are all human and we all have expectations for ourselves and from those around us. We expect to graduate from school, to find a good job, to have a loving partner, to start a family, always be in good health and to achieve financial success. It’s natural to have these expectations because it also helps us strive to achieve goals and better ourselves. But sometimes our expectations can become unrealistic and unattainable, leading to disappointment, frustration, and a sense of failure.
The Problem with Unrealistic Expectations
Unrealistic expectations are those that are not based on reality or are too high to achieve. For example, if you expect to find your dream job right after college, without any experience, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. Similarly, if you expect your partner to be perfect, always understanding, and never making mistakes, or unrealistic expectations about our children’s behavior, you might be setting yourself up for a lot of conflict and frustration.
As a life coach, I have personally struggled with having unrealistic expectations and also interacted with many people who struggle with unrealistic expectations. By doing this, we could be setting ourselves up for failure by putting all of our hopes and dreams into something that may not be achievable or realistic. This can lead to a vicious cycle and feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, dissatisfaction, bad moods, decreased motivation and even depression. We might also blame ourselves or others for not meeting our expectations, which can lead to resentment, anger, and conflicts in relationships.
Unrealistic expectations can also lead to stress and anxiety. When we put too much pressure on ourselves to achieve something that is unrealistic, we might feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. This can lead to burnout, physical and mental health problems, and a decrease in quality of life. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim high, but it does mean that we need to be realistic about the steps it will take to reach our goals.
Managing Your Expectations
The good news is that we can manage our expectations and avoid the negative effects of unrealistic expectations. Here are some strategies to help you manage your expectations and live a happier, more fulfilling life:
Be realistic: The first step in managing your expectations is to be realistic about what is achievable and what is not. This means setting goals and expectations that are based on your skills, resources, and circumstances. Instead of aiming for perfection or immediate success, set achievable, incremental goals. Break down larger objectives into smaller, manageable steps. This approach allows you to track progress and celebrate small wins along the way.
Focus on the process, not just the outcome: Shift your attention from the end result to the effort and experiences that lead you there. Enjoy the journey, learn from it, and savor the moments along the way. This will help you stay motivated and positive, even when things don’t go as planned.
Practice gratitude: Cultivate a sense of gratitude for what you have and the progress you’ve made. Focusing on the positives in your life can shift your perspective from what’s lacking to what’s abundant
Be flexible and adaptable: Life is unpredictable, and things don’t always go as planned. Instead of getting stuck in rigid expectations, be flexible and adaptable to change. This means being open to new opportunities, adjusting your goals as needed, and learning from your failures and setbacks. In my last article I talked about how we can EMBRACE CHANGE AND FIND JOY ALONG THE WAY. You can read it here.
Seek support: Finally, don’t be afraid to seek support from others when you need it. This might include friends, family, or a professional therapist or coach. Talking about your expectations and frustrations with others can help you gain perspective, find new solutions, and feel more supported and understood.
Embrace change: Life’s journey is filled with unexpected twists and turns. Be flexible and open to change, as it can lead to new opportunities and personal growth.
The key to happiness is not in achieving perfection, but in embracing the imperfections in our lives and surroundings and learning to find joy and meaning in the ups and downs. Managing unrealistic expectations and embracing life’s journey is an ongoing process. It requires self-reflection, patience, and a willingness to adapt. By adopting these strategies, you can find greater contentment and fulfillment in the present moment while working toward your long-term goals.