If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens, you know that great expectations can lead to house fires and being pursued by escaped convicts. The consequences are usually more subtle in real life, but managing your expectations can make you happier and more successful.
Setting Your Expectations
1. Distinguish between goals and expectations. You can want to lose 30 pounds or buy a new car without letting your happiness depend on such events. Work with whatever circumstances come your way. Replace disappointment with acceptance and curiosity.
2. Let go of the past. Most of our expectations are based on our previous experience. Examine your old habits and make conscious choices about how you want to live.
3. Raise the bar. Ambitious goals challenge you to try harder. You hone your skills and rack up achievements that build your confidence. Even if you need more than one try, you know that you’re making progress.
4. Savor the anticipation. Another advantage to reaching high is that it gives you so much to look forward to. You feel motivated to put forth your best efforts when you remember the rewards.
5. Be realistic. At the same time, keeping your goals and expectations reasonable reduces stress. Understand your abilities and strengths. Calculate what resources you have available.
Dealing with Your Expectations
1. Communicate clearly. Hidden assumptions can make it complicated to figure out the true expectations of others, as well as our own thoughts. Listen closely and ask probing questions.
2. Start early. There’s a good reason why major campaigns schedule pre-kickoff meetings, and employers orient new hires. It’s easier to agree on expectations at the start rather than trying to resolve conflicts after someone feels let down.
3. Reinterpret setbacks. When you’re facing outcomes that are less than ideal, remain calm, and give yourself a pep talk. Think about previous ordeals that helped you to grow stronger.
4. Plan for contingencies. Temporary bumps in the road won’t seem like such a big deal when you’ve already mapped out a detour route. Spot potential obstacles in advance so you’ll be prepared.
5. Accept change. Are your expectations keeping up with the times? Check on whether you’re putting aside enough savings for your retirement years and have the latest qualifications to excel in your professional field.
6. Establish priorities. Exceeding expectations can be a wise decision if it helps you to land a new client or give your family a vacation they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, sometimes good enough is okay. You may feel less stressed if you serve salad and sandwiches for dinner on Monday nights instead of cooking a hot meal.
7. Seize opportunities. Managing expectations can be especially rewarding when your hard work pays off better than you hoped. Maybe your hobby will turn into a profitable small business or you’ll meet your future spouse on a blind date. Bask in your good fortune and share your blessings with others.
8. Negotiate skillfully. Even when you’re comfortable with your expectations, you may still need to adjust them to accommodate others. Try to be patient and build goodwill while steering clear of excessive demands. Set ambitious goals without creating rigid expectations. Know that you can use any set of circumstances to learn and grow. Your future will look brighter even if it turns out differently from the vision you hold today.