Managing Expectations Photo: Joshua Earle

Expectations are a common part of life.

There are many benefits to having high expectations. They push us to excel, to reach beyond what we think is possible into the realm of dreams and opportunities. They drive us to want more out of life than what is normal or expected. If they become our focus, however, they can make it difficult to lead a happy, well-adjusted life.

When we determine our success or failure based on whether or not we’re meeting our expectations, we begin placing more value on what we want than on what we have–and that’s a dangerous place to be. While it’s good to dream and to want more, it’s vital that we learn how to balance our expectations with gratitude so that they don’t dominate our life.

How do you know if you’re enslaved by your expectations?

1. Nothing is ever good enough.

You don’t get paid enough. Your home isn’t big enough. Your car isn’t nice enough. Your vacation wasn’t long enough. Does this sound familiar? Our high expectations, when they’re given free reign over our life, can begin to chip away at our accomplishments. Rather than enjoying what we have done, we think of all the ways in which it’s not enough. Maybe you can do better. Maybe you’ll have more someday. But today it’s important to enjoy where you are and what you have. Let it be enough today.

2. You feel like something is missing.

Oftentimes when we feel as though something is missing, we try to fill that hole with accomplishments or material things. Usually what we need is to take some time to get to know ourselves better. Are you living out your calling? Do you know what your purpose is? Are you surrounded with real, genuine friends? Evaluate your expectations and what you think your life should look like. Why do you want ________? It may be because someone else has it, or because you feel it is necessary for success. Find out what it is you really want out of life. If you’re unhappy with your direction, change it. Your expectations should be shaped by what is important to you, not vise versa.

3. You’re not content with your daily life.

The majority of our life is spent in the monotony of day-to-day tasks. If you find yourself dreading your normal day, it’s time to take an inventory. Are you truly unhappy with your life or are you overshadowed by your expectations? It may be that you unable to enjoy each day because you’re consumed by where you think you should be or what you think you should have. This takes some self-evaluation to figure out. The truth of the matter is that until you can become content with yourself and the life you lead, you’ll constantly be running after the next big thing. It leads to a life of desperation and unhappiness.

If you suspect that your expectations are running your life, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What is really important to me?
    • Take it down to the basics. At it’s very core, what do you want your life to be about?
  • Where do I want to be in five years?
    • Based on the first question, what would add the most value to your life?
    • If you are living your purpose and focused on what matters to you, what will that look like?
  • What am I grateful for today?
    • What about your life makes you the happiest?
    • What have you accomplished lately?

Be patient with yourself as you figure out what you really want and begin to free yourself from the condemnation that comes with living only for your expectations. Learn to choose gratitude and acceptance today while you dream about tomorrow.

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