I was sitting at one of my favorite places to get brunch here in Kansas City with a man whom I have a profound sense of respect for and as we were sharing a simple conversation over some top shelf breakfast casserole, our conversation ebbed and flowed from professional struggles to how creating and managing expectations is an essential commodity to succeed in life.
When the topic turned towards controlling expectations of others and one's self, it struck a cord inside of me. I can not quantify the number of times I have been frustrated or disappointed because an outlandish expectation I had was destroyed similarly to my first crush obliterating every unrealistic expectation I had about what our interactions were going to be like. Over the years I have been slowly learning to manage my expectations to help keep my inner world in balance.
So what is an expectation? Merriam-Webster states that "it's a belief that something will happen or is likely to occur." or to be humorous I went to urbandictionary.com, and I found a decent definition. It goes as such "The thoughts and hopes that go through one's mind before an engagement/party/happening etc. that consist of imagining what it might be like. The equation to find satisfaction is found by taking enjoyment and subtracting expectation from it. This is to say that one should never expect too much from something."
Have expectations ever been a force that you have tried to reckon with and failed? Keep thinking about that as you check out these quotes.
"There's strong data that, within companies, the No. 1 reason for ethical violations is the pressure to meet expectations, sometimes unrealistic expectations." ~Stephen Covey
"Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations." ~Earl Nightingale
"If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome." ~Michael Jordan
From those simple quotes, it seems that the reality of expectations plays a massive role in everyday life. To go back to the brunch joint I was at; this man was imparting to me some simplistic yet powerful advice that the mitigation of expectations is essential. He laid out some examples where in his life both professional and non-professional were influenced by the attempt of managing expectations.
Even now thinking about it for myself, in writing this article I am struggling with managing my own expectations. You see, it is Sunday morning, and I am sitting at a local coffee shop trying to produce another weekly article for my website. I have set personal expectations to accomplish writing something for my modest following by Sunday morning and this week specifically I have struggled with what to write about. Yet, the expectations I created for myself and the weekly promise I've given envelope me in the throws of a force created by expectation. Is this negative? No, I do not think so. I just think learning how to realize where I am at, know my limits, and communicate them is what it all comes down to. I know that I am capable of writing an article every week it is just a matter of making time and putting in the effort. I also intentionally wanted to create the external anticipation of others for myself so that I would be less likely to give up long term.
So what are some practical ways to manage one's self and others expectations? These are a couple of steps I think would help anyone out.
1) Honesty. What do I mean by this? It helps society to be honest with yourself and the people around you. Are you honestly going to be able to meet an unrealistic deadline? Are you attracted to that woman? What are your core motives in everyday life? Do you accept a job because that is what your parents thought was best for you? Did you marry your wife because you were afraid of being alone for the rest of your life? I think the actual act of self-introspection and evaluation of what motives possess you will empower you instantly to begin to make you aware of and know how to navigate expectations.
2) Assertiveness. This is a massive maxim in the war on expectations. When someone else projects their expectations on you in a passive aggressive way do you allow it to happen or do you speak up and confront it? When your boss sets a deadline that you know is impossible, do you speak up? When your parents want you to go to a particular college but you want to go somewhere else do you say anything? When your romantic partner wants to eat at a restaurant which you hate, what do you do? Making to push to be assertive can be overwhelming at points, but I know from personal experience that it is beyond worth it. For me, the clearest example I can think of in my life currently are at work when customers have unrealistic expectations on pricing and deadlines and I have to be assertive, otherwise, they will have unrealistic expectations.
Honestly, I think with those two simple qualities the management of expectations could be revolutionized. I am super curious to hear ways in which you navigate expectations in your life?
Did you find this article helpful? What are your thoughts?