Ask 100 random people about their thoughts on expectations, and chances are the majority will tell you they think expectations are a good thing. The rationale behind this is that expectations push you to do more and be a better version of yourself, and they prevent you from “settling” for anything less than what you feel you deserve. While both these things are true, the reality is that expectations often do far more harm than good.
Expectations are based off of your predictions for the future. Unfortunately, predictions are almost always wrong, which means that by creating them, you are invariably setting yourself up for disappointment, frustration, sadness and other negative emotions. In the grand scheme of things, your expectations may indirectly affect your happiness. If you find yourself constantly feeling frustrated by the outcome of events or actions of others, it may be time to more closely manage your expectations or ditch them entirely. Below are some tips to help you do so.
Define What You Want
Defining what you want is not the same as setting expectations. Setting expectations entails trying to predict the outcome of future actions or events, whereas defining what you want involves you being honest with yourself about what you desire from work/relationships/personal achievements, etc.
For instance, find work that fulfills you and through which you make a difference. Don’t find work with the expectation that you will make a ton of money or move quickly to the top.
Define what you want in a partner, such as someone who is caring, thoughtful, loyal, hardworking and adventurous. Don’t set expectations for him or her, such as the expectation that he or she will keep the house clean, be the primary income earner and shower you with gifts.
Pinpoint how you want to feel after a workout, such as more energized and confident in yourself. Don’t expect to lose 20 pounds and have the body of a supermodel.
Defining what you want helps you create manageable goals that will lead you to where you want to be without setting yourself up for disappointment. When you catch yourself setting expectations, shift your perspective and start defining instead.
Go About Setting Your Goals Differently
Speaking of setting goals … When you do set goals for yourself, be realistic in how you do so. Many people, when goal setting, set themselves up for disappointment before they even begin working toward them. For instance, when it comes to working out, many people define their goals in terms of weight loss. A common goal is to lose 10 pounds in one week. This goal is unrealistic and positions many people for disappointment, even those who follow a strict workout plan.
You can avoid this disappointment by ditching the 10-pound goal and instead stating for how long and how often you plan to work out. For instance, plan to work out one hour a day, four times a week. If you can do more, great, but if not, you can at least feel accomplished in the fact that you met your initial quota.
Decide To Choose Your Mood
Finally, decide to control how you choose to respond to certain situations. It’s easy to indulge your initial reactions of anger, frustration, disappointment or sadness. You didn’t lose that 10 pounds the workout video promised you would? Instead of becoming angry and demanding a refund, look at the positives. You feel better, have more energy and are down a pant size. Put things into perspective, let go of the disappointment and move forward.
Letting go of your expectations won’t be easy, but it’s worth the effort. Once you stop letting your expectations control your future, you’ll find that you’re able to live a happier and more wholesome existence.