“You expect too much,” my girlfriend tells me for the 2nd time in less than a week. We were not fighting, but she let me know that she felt that she had a hard time hitting my expectations, and that it was stressful. It was not making me happy either. I mentioned to her that she is setting a low ceiling but that it was made of glass. She has the ability to breakthrough it if she wanted to. That might not have been the best thing to say, but it really got me thinking. Not everyone wants the same things I do. To some, a certain level of success is not worth the effort or pain it takes to get there, and that is OK. For me, I would like to bench press 300 pounds like Travis, but in my mind, it would take far too much to get there. So, I don’t try. Like me not wanting to reach my potential physically, she does not want to reach her potential professionally. We all have different priorities. By me setting such a high expectation for her professionally, it created stress for her and disappointment for me.
I have similar high expectations for my staff, my friends, and my daughters. People who desire similar results to me appreciate it, and we get along great. I like when I get pushed professionally too! Those high expectations have helped to create the level of success I have now and is what is propelling me to reach new heights and new goals. I like to be around professionally successful people, and I enjoy the road it takes to get there.
I believe that high expectations are positive and are extremely useful on your road to success. With that said, I also understand that setting expectations that are not reached creates stress, anxiety, worry, and disappointment.
It has been said, the secret to happiness is low expectations. I can see the point. If you have low expectations, it is easier to exceed them, and exceeding expectations makes you happy. I remember asking a girl on a date in high school knowing full well I would get shot down. To my surprise she said yes! My expectations were low, and they were exceeded so I was happy. Funny thing is, I was so into this girl that I had high expectations about that date and guess what happened? Yep… I was disappointed.
Using a strategy of lowering expectations can definitely help with happiness. I cannot be too hard on it for this reason. But growth helps with happiness too, and high expectations are essential for growth. In fact, I don’t believe someone can be truly happy without growth, so you can see why this is an interesting juggling act.
So, what is the balance?
I believe true happiness and success needs accurate expectations. Expectations cannot be out of reach or you will always be disappointed, but they need to be high enough to push you to get better. It is also not good to set high expectations for people in your life that don’t want the same accomplishments you do. They should set their own expectations and communicate those to you; it might be OK to push a little, but there needs to be a lot of support with the push.
I think the key here is to set high but attainable expectations and communicate that well. Both to the people around you and to yourself.
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