HAPPINESS

How to Escape the Tyranny of Expectations

The gap between vision and reality makes you unhappy

Frustrated young lady working on laptop
Frustrated young lady working on laptop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

“Unhappiness is best defined as the difference between our talents and our expectations.” — Edward de Bono

Having unrealistic or high expectations often leads to disappointment. They frequently take the form of an unspoken demand:

  • I expected that you would take care of that! Why didn’t you? Well, no. I didn’t ask you to take care of it, but you should have known.”
  • I expected to receive a promotion this cycle, but it didn’t happen. Now, I’m upset. My boss should have known that I wanted that promotion!”

Expectations have hurt me

For much of my life, I let myself be a victim of the expectations trap. I thought that I was ambitious and bold by setting high — and often unrealistic — expectations for my performance and achievements.

Your expectations of others

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” — Bruce Lee

We also set ourselves up for disappointment when we have expectations of others that they fail to live up to — at least in our perception of the outcome. Just as it isn’t fair for others to have expectations of us, we shouldn’t have expectations of them.

Their expectations of you

“I do know one thing about me: I don’t measure myself by others’ expectations or let others define my worth.” — Sonia Sotomayor

Some of our earliest expectations come from our parents. I know that I’m lucky. My parents didn’t set expectations for my life or career. They simply wanted me to be happy and healthy.

  • I expect you to study law.”
  • Why aren’t you married with a family yet?”

Your expectations for yourself

“I never go into a situation with any type of expectations.” — Kevin Gates

We are often our own worst critics. We set high expectations for ourselves and then feel sad and disappointed when we fail to meet them.

  • My college buddies have already become executives. What’s wrong with me?
  • I should have published a book by now.
  • My colleagues are tenured professors. Why am I stuck?
  • All of my friends are married already.

I know, it’s easier said than done

Shifting away from the model of having expectations won’t be easy. I know that. But, I think it leads to better outcomes.

  1. Prepare for the worst.
  2. Perform as well as you can.
  • I work out and eat healthy meals. I don’t have an expectation for how my body will look or even what my health will be. I am doing the best that I can, and I am happy with my consistent habits (e.g., exercising daily, eating healthy food, eating the right amounts of food, getting rest, etc.). My body will be what it will be after all of that.
  • You can see that you are making progress towards your goals.
  • Your daily habits are making you a little better every day.
  • You are acting in alignment with your values.
  • You have the necessary freedom to be in control of your future.

Curious

Find out what others have already figured out. Follow our publication to join our community.

Larry Cornett, Ph.D.

Written by

I’m a leadership coach & business advisor who helps you reclaim your power and regain your freedom. Become Invincible! 🚀https://newsletter.invinciblecareer.com

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Larry Cornett, Ph.D.

Written by

I’m a leadership coach & business advisor who helps you reclaim your power and regain your freedom. Become Invincible! 🚀https://newsletter.invinciblecareer.com

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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