Most of us have big plans, and high hopes. We start out with the best of intentions—intent on changing the world or making life better.
But then, no sooner do we begin than we are met with disappointment as we discover that things just aren’t happening like we expected or turning out the way we thought they would.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. We all have hopes, expectations, and plans—and when things don’t pan out like we’re expecting, we get hurt. We’re told to reach for the stars, to dream big, and to achieve great things, but what happens when those stars seem to be unreachable?
The problem is often found in the expectations that we set. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with making plans and setting yourself up for success, it’s important to think realistically too. While you need to dream big in order to motivate yourself to try to achieve new things, the paradox is that setting expectations that are too high and unrealistic can lead to disappointment.
The solution is finding a balance. Learn to manage your expectations in a way that allows you to hold onto your dreams, and make plans without setting yourself up for failure. The secret is not letting your expectations rule you. Putting things in perspective can help immensely in terms of goal-setting and motivation—as well as helping to keep you on-track and focused, giving you more confidence, and helping you to have more fun.
Here’s a look at how you can manage your expectations in a way that will help motivate you on towards success—without setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment.
Be Aware of Your Expectations
While it is important to dream big, it’s also vital to keep yourself grounded by maintaining a realistic outlook on life. Being aware of your expectations is a vital first step when making plans, and having an introspective mindset can be invaluable when it comes to keeping your expectations in check. Having realistic expectations doesn’t mean lowering the bar, or compromising on issues that are important to you, but it does mean recognizing your expectations for what they are—and ensuring that you’re not hanging your happiness on someone else—or depending on some other external factors that are outside of yourself.
When things don’t go according to plan, it’s okay to be disappointed, but just don’t let that frustration grind you to a permanent halt. With most things in life, there will be setbacks and disappointments along the way, but that doesn’t mean you should take them as a sign that things are not meant to be—or as a signal that you should stop trying. Letting disappointment keep you from trying again is one of worst things that you could do to yourself—and it’s important to get back up and keep moving forward. A setback could indicate that a change in direction is needed—but it doesn’t mean that you should throw in the towel!
Instead of consistently setting high expectations—for all areas of your life, know when to step back. No one’s perfect! Free yourself from unnecessarily high expectations, and give yourself the opportunity to live without this type of pressure. This doesn’t mean that you should plan for failure or maintain a pessimistic outlook on life—but it does mean identifying areas that are important and necessary, and areas where it’s okay to be a bit more flexible.
Enjoy the Journey
People are often on the hunt for the next big thing, assuming that if they were to reach that pinnacle, then everything would be perfect. But the biggest disappointment of all is to reach that ‘point’ and discover that it isn’t everything you had hoped it would be. Having a goal to aim for is vital, but it’s also important to recognize that happiness isn’t about arriving at a destination. Don’t put your life on hold, or sacrifice your happiness for the sake of progress. It’s important to find happiness along the way and to remember to enjoy the journey as well.
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As the saying goes, “There are two ways to be happy: improve your reality or lower your expectations.” Often, happiness is a matter of both!
It’s important to set goals—to dream big and establish expectations, but at the same time, it’s vital to ensure that those expectations are realistic—and not contingent on other people or circumstances that are beyond your control.
Recognizing the importance of being happy now (not at some later date in the future!) will go far in helping you to manage your expectations, saving you from assigning undue importance to a specific destination, and giving you the freedom to live your life—and be happy today.