How to Live with Realistic Expectations

Expectations can be our friend but unfortunately they can also be our worst nightmare. The challenge is to dance with expectations so they remain reasonably realistic yet filled with promise. How exactly do you do that?

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The two ditches you fall into:

1)    No expectations.

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed (Alexander Pope).  As simple as it sounds, having no expectations is mythical in nature and doesn’t provide enough push in life to provide healthy growth and learning.  

If you expect nothing, you can never be disappointed. Apart from a few starry-eyed poets or monks living on a mountaintop somewhere, however, we all have expectations. We not only have them, we need them. They fuel our dreams, our hopes, and our lives like some super-caffeinated energy drink (Tonya Hurley).

2)    Unrealistic expectations.

You fall into this ditch when your plans don’t match your capacity to achieve. It happened to me after my accident when I expected to be back to work in about six months but in reality, the months would turn into years.

The road between these two ditches is a balance of a dream or goal with a realistic plan and the capacity to complete it. Finding that balance is the difference between misery and peace. 

Three Ingredients to Help Pave the Way for Realistic Expectations

1. Take a frequent and honest inventory of your expectations.

To know what your expectations are, it a great place to start.  To do so you must exercise your self-awareness muscle and as you do, clarify what you expect and how realistic that is given your current situation and capacity to achieve that expectation. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What do you value?  How are you honoring or dishonoring those values?
  • What gifts or talents do you have to share with others?
  • What expectations of yours are unrealistic?
  • Where have you given up? 

2. Pick half-a-dozen expectations you can do today in put in order of priority.

There is nothing like having a realistic plan of action to help you move forward in life.  Even when you’re feeling disappointed from broken dreams, you need daily realistic activities to keep you moving forward in life.

Do what you can with what you have where you are (Theodore Roosevelt).

Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life (Marilu Henner).  

3.  Include struggle and disappointment as part of your expectation.

People get into trouble with expectations when their worldview does not include the possible for heart ache and pain.  You don’t have to go looking for it – just be ready for it when it finds you because it will.  Expecting a struggle will soften the blow disappointment has on your life.

C. S. Lewis wrote, We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for.

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem (Theodore Rubin).

What unrealistic expectations do you need to lay down so you can pick up some new realistic ones?

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About Cam Taylor

I'm help people live inspired, focused and tenacious lives. I work as a coach, facilitator, author, and speaker.
This entry was posted in Adversity, Change, Growth, Hope, Opportunity, Perspective, purpose, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How to Live with Realistic Expectations

  1. Randy Miller says:

    I remember driving down a muddy road having my vehicle swerve from ditch to ditch. Expectations for me can be like that. At times I just stop on this road, realizing though I have to keep moving to reach home. Starting down the road again – maybe a little slower.
    All those times driving down those muddy roads years back, I always made it home.

    • Cam Taylor says:

      Randy, I love this metaphor. It points to the need to adjust expectations “on the go” especially during times of constant change. And how true – “we only make it home if we keep moving!” Thanks for joining the conversation.

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