Turn Setbacks into Setups
How to Manage Expectations in Life
November 1, 2018
In a way, expectations can be helpful: they can give us a sense of motivation and direction, or help us meet certain standards. However, when expectations influence our thoughts too much, or when we give into others’ wishes instead of following our own path, it can greatly affect our personal wellbeing. But how do we start manage expectations instead of letting them rule our lives?
Managing Personal Expectations
We expect a lot of ourselves. Unfortunately, our expectations are often unrealistic, which can cause a lot of stress and self-criticism—so it’s important to manage them well.
Give Yourself Time
We want stuff when we want it—but that can make us hard on ourselves in terms of personal expectations. Ambition is a great thing in healthy doses, but if we expect to instantly achieve our goals, it creates internal conflict. Be mindful of your own timeline as you set goals and objectives, and make sure you have a realistic plan to get you there.
Adapt to Changing Expectations
When things go wrong, or situations change, try your best not to act emotionally. It’s easy to feel like a failure when things shift, leaving you unable to reach your own goals—and we sometimes try to blindly continue without reconsidering our expectations. Instead, take a deep breath! It’s time to pause and consider your options, reframing that initial expectation in the context of your new situation.
Don’t Judge Yourself Harshly
When our lives are ruled by personal expectations, it can make every day a struggle. We criticize ourselves harshly for failure and feel disappointment when we don’t live up to our dreams. Instead, think of yourself as an explorer going through life, rather than someone with a path dictated by expectations. Whether you succeed or fail, your overall expectation should simply be to learn as you go.
Managing Others’ Expectations
Even when you have your own personal expectations well in hand, it can be difficult to change what others expect of you. Invest some time and energy, however, and you can slowly improve your relationships with others—and with yourself.
Communicate About Everything
No one knows how to make you happy if they don’t know what makes you happy. If you don’t communicate about your expectations, as well as your own plans and projects, you’re essentially preventing others from managing their own expectations of you. So, learn to over-communicate, and be redundant: When will you finish? Where are your boundaries? What are your preferences?
Prepare for Problems
Just as you have to adapt to changing situations in your personal life, you’ll run headlong into these problems in your social life as well. Always try to imagine the worst-case scenario for your situation, and anticipate possible outcomes. Having a plan B (and C) can help ensure that you meet expectations, even when things go wrong.
Predict Others’ Expectations
Everyone comes to a situation with biases and preconceptions, which are at the root of all expectations. Knowing where others stand in terms of their own personal issues and beliefs can help you understand where their expectations come from.
Try to anticipate what people expect of you, and either work to meet those expectations or communicate about why they should be altered.
Managing expectations is definitely a learned habit—and it will undoubtedly take time to change your mindset—but having the ability to understand and adapt these expectations can help you start to pursue your own goals in life.