Monday, February 11, 2013

Get Real!

Setting Reasonable Expectations

Take Some Pressure Off Yourself

I have the unfortunate habit of setting unrealistic expectations for myself. This practice not only results in constant disappoint but also yields undo self-imposed feelings of stress, guilt, pressure, and failure. It is time that we start to get real with ourselves by setting reasonable expectations to meet. I am not suggesting that you slack off and set the bar exceptionally low (by all means be ambitious); but we can't afford to set the bar so high that it is impossible to reach. Recently I have been feeling disappointed in myself for being unable to meet the expectations that I had set. 
Have to love some old-school math humor-

I put pressure on myself academically by expecting to get nothing lower than an A- in my classes. I have been feeling guilty for not posting on my blog as frequently as I used to. I fear that if I don't post every day people will discontinue checking it for updates. And I am concerned as to the potential negative effects that my virtual absence may have on those who read my entries regularly. During the summer months or when my work load was lighter I was able to post at least once a day. But now that school is back in full swing and I am juggling more responsibilities it is difficult for me to find the time to post as often as I once did or as I would like to. It is important that I look at my current situation and reassess the amount that I can expect myself to do. My expectations with respect to my school work also need to be remodeled. I am starting to take more advanced courses and subsequently am facing more challenging work than I had in previous semesters. It is infeasible for me to earn straight A's when my classes and the course material are becoming increasingly more difficult. If I don't get real with myself now by reevaluating my expectations and altering them, making them more reasonable or feasible, then I am bound to collapse under the pressure that I am putting on myself. Let us give ourselves a bit of relief by taking some pressure off ourselves. How can we do this? Well, first we need to look at our lives and map out our responsibilities, assess the amount of time we have to dedicate toward said responsibilities, and ultimately create expectations that are reasonable with respect to our obligations and amount of free time. Once we evaluate these elements of our lives- responsibilities, tasks, free time, personal abilities, priorities- then we become capable of setting expectations for ourselves that won't lead to feelings of disappointment, failure, and guilt. We all have our limits and we can't expect ourselves to excel beyond these limits, do everything, and achieve excellence in all aspects of our lives.

"...I am bound to collapse under the pressure."

"When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are."

- Donald Miller

At first this quote may seem irrelevant to the topic at hand. But with further analysis and associated explanation I think you will find that it is in fact key to the idea of getting real. Instead of the "people" insert the word "yourself." Also, replace the word "them" with the word "yourself" and the word "they" with "you." Now it reads, When you stop expecting yourself to be perfect, you can like yourself for who you are. Does the quote and/or notion seem fitting now? 
" can like yourself for who you are."
We need to throw out unreasonable expectations that we believe will yield perfection. In my entry, Perfection Does Not Exist, I attempted to make it exceptionally apparent that we must stop reaching for this impossible goal. The idea of perfection is closely connected to the concept of creating infeasible expectations. Just like perfection these expectations cannot be met and we will subsequently be left feeling let down and worthless. Once we stop expecting ourselves to do the impossible then we can finally recognize what we are capable of doing and appreciate these strengths and abilities. For example, the difficulty of my courses this semester will prevent me from earning straight A's. This is a fact that I need to accept and redefine my personal expectations in order to make them reasonable. I believe that I can set my sights on an A- or a B+ in all my courses as long as work hard and perform to the best of my ability. By altering my expectations, making them more realistic, I will be able to feel fulfilled and proud at the end of the semester despite not earning all A's. The only thing that has changed in this situation is what I expect of myself. By slightly lowering the bar I am more able to meet my expectations without carrying the burdens of pressure and stress. There is no shame in earning a B+; likewise there is no shame in setting new, reasonable expectations when your prior ones no longer fit with your life and circumstance. By altering my expectations with respect to my grades I enable myself to appreciate my level of dedication as a student and the knowledge I am acquiring as I continue with my studies. Instead of feeling bogged down the pressure of expecting an A, I am able to absorb the material and recognize the miraculous way that my brain works. 
Take Some Pressure Off Yourself
Once we have taken some of the pressure off ourselves by setting reasonable expectations we have more brain power available to us for recognition, appreciation, and awareness. Setting our expectations too high- earning straight A's, overloading ourselves with responsibilities, committing to too many tasks, making over zealous plans- detracts from our quality of life and debilitates us from seeing how truly wonderful and able we are. After we have recognized what we are capable of and set reasonable expectations then it is time that we own them and stand by them.

"I'm not in this world to live up to you expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine."

- Bruce Lee

The only person who can judge whether or not you have been successful and lived up to your potential is yourself. You can try to lie to yourself by setting expectations that are easily met or are below your true abilities but at the end of the day the only person you are cheating is yourself. Similarly, no one can tell you whether or not your expectations are right or wrong. Your expectations need to reflect your wants, your abilities, your priorities, and your aspirations. The key word here is "your." Creating expectations based upon what others think is best for you is bound to lead to unhappiness and disappointment because no one knows you better than you do.
Only bother focusing on what you personally expect of yourself-
I have recently run into this issue with respect to my blog. Other people have the expectation that I should be posting more frequently and up until recently I had this same expectation for myself. However, because of my current routine and life, posting every day or even every other is simply an impossibility. I altered my personal expectations but aiming to post at least three times a week. But, other people- readers, friends, family- continued to expect me to post more often. I was putting pressure on myself because I simply could not live up to these expectations. This quote is perfect for me because it provides with insight- an idea that we were taught at a very young age- that I somehow forgot. Everyone elses' expectations for me are irrelevant; the only ones that matter are the reasonable expectations that I set for myself. If I can live up to my own expectations, in this case posting about 3 times a week, then I can eliminate some of the pressure and still feel satisfied with my result.
No need to fear expectations if they are reasonable-
I feel as if we all have a point in our lives when we find ourselves striving to meet expectations that others- parents, friends, teachers, employers, doctors- have set for us. The issue with this is that it becomes difficult to muster up passion and dedication when we are attempting to achieve an expectation that is not personal. We do our best work when we are aiming toward meeting an expectation that we feel personally connected to and responsible for. I urge you to take a look at your life and reflect upon the expectations that you are currently attempting to meet. Are these expectations outdated? Do they need to altered- lowered or raised- in order to fit with your present life? Are you striving for perfection and subsequently judging yourself for failing? Or do you have reasonable expectations for yourself and your life that will allow you to feel proud and fulfilled? Have you set your own expectations or are you working to meet expectations that others have created for you? Do your expectations accurately reflect your abilities? Your priorities? Your ultimate goals? Reflect upon your life and your expectations by asking yourself this questions. Dedication, hard work, and passion can allow us to meet all of expectations as long as these expectations are reasonable. Throw any and all outrageous expectations out the window; they will only lead to negative feelings- disappointment, sadness, anger, frustration, unhappiness. If we can get real with respect to our personal expectations then we have the opportunity to get fulfillment, appreciation, and most of all happiness.

Aim for your reasonable expectations and don't look back!

P.S. If you didn't make this deduction from my post, I will be updating my blog less frequently due to an increase in other responsibilities. My lack of post is not because I have abandoned my effort to find happiness one quote at a time nor is it a reflection of how much I appreciate and care for my loyal readers. I will continue to update as much as I possibly can (probably 2-3 times a week) but I needed to set new and reasonable expectations for myself with respect to my blog in order to take some of the pressure off. As always, thank you for continuing to read and respond to my entries. Knowing that I have a dedicated group of readers who appreciate what I have to say brings me joy every single day. I never knew my little blog project would gain this momentum and provide me with such a great level of satisfaction. I suppose sometimes when our expectations are low we get rewarded with an exciting surprise!

"Knowing that I have a dedicated group of readers...brings me joy every single day."

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