Where am I? Expectations

Most of us have certain expectations for ourselves: things we think we should have done by now, or things we believe other people think we should have done by now. Do you set high expectations for yourself? Do others have high expectations for you?

To me the real question is: do you really need to have expectations for yourself at all? One thing is to determine what you want and where you want to be headed, and then set concrete, achievable goals for yourself. But it’s another thing entirely to set high expectations for yourself without having a clear idea of exactly what it is that you want in life. This may just be an issue of semantics (expectations vs. goals), but to me, setting high expectations for oneself is very different from setting concrete goals and working to achieve them.

There are at least two main types of expectations: the expectations you have for yourself and the expectations that others have for you. (There are, of course, the expectations that you may have for others, but it’s important to keep in mind that the decisions that other people make and the actions that they take are not up to you. If other people don’t live up to your expectations, that might be because they had an entirely different agenda for their own lives.)

In order to understand where you are in life, it’s important for you to get clear on any expectations that you may have set for yourself. It’s equally important to have an understanding of any expectations that you may have taken on from other people in your life: family, friends, partners. I’ve talked about what we get from others, and I’ve talked about all those things other people want  you to do. Part of looking at where we are in life involves other people’s expectations of us, and how we’ve incorporated those things into our mindset.

Why? Because these expectations may be dragging you down, making you feel disappointed with yourself. Dwelling on unmet expectations is not productive, but getting clear on where you want to be headed and setting clear, achievable goals is. Start by ridding yourself of expectations so that you can plan a clear path for the future.

Get started:

  1. Plan a fair amount of time when you can get out your journal or notebook, and think about the following questions (this is a long one). Write down everything that comes to mind, without judging. You may be surprised at what you come up with.
  2. What expectations do you have for yourself, both now and in the past?
  3. Do you consider that you’ve set high/medium/low expectations for yourself throughout your life? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being highest, how high would you say your expectations are for yourself?
  4. What specific things did you think you would have achieved in life by now? Did you think you’d own your own house/flat/apartment? Did you think you’d own your own car? Did you think you’d be married with children by now? Where did you think you’d be at this point in your life? Which of these things have you achieved, and which have you not? How do you feel about that?
  5. What expectations have your parents had for you in your life? Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Which of these things have you achieved? Which have you not? How do you feel about these expectations that your parents had or have for you? How do you feel about meeting or not meeting these expectations?
  6. What expectations have your teachers had for you in your life? Perhaps you had a couple of special teachers in school that you formed a strong bond with. And maybe they expressed their expectations for your future. Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Which of these things have you achieved? Which have you not? How do you feel about these expectations that your teachers had or have for you? How do you feel about meeting or not meeting these expectations?
  7. What expectations have your siblings had for you in your life? Sometimes siblings openly compare each other and what they’ve achieved in life, and other times you just get a vague idea of how you “measure up” against them. Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Which of these things have you achieved? Which have you not? How do you feel about these expectations that your siblings had or have for you? How do you feel about meeting or not meeting these expectations?
  8. What expectations have your friends had for you in your life? Friends can sometimes be vocal about how you’re getting on in life. But sometimes it’s just a feeling that you get: they think they’ve been more successful than you…or the other way around. Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Which of these things have you achieved? Which have you not? How do you feel about these expectations that your friends had or have for you? How do you feel about meeting or not meeting these expectations?
  9. What expectations have your present or past partners had for you in your life? Partners, be them boyfriends/girlfriends or husbands/wives can sometimes be very expressive about their expectations for you…or they may not be, and you might just get a sense of their pride or disappointment in you. Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Which of these things have you achieved? Which have you not? How do you feel about these expectations that your past or present partners had or have for you? How do you feel about meeting or not meeting these expectations?
  10. What expectations have your children had for you in your life? Whether your children are young or older, you may get a sense of how they feel about what you’ve achieved in life. Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Which of these things have you achieved? Which have you not? How do you feel about these expectations that your children had or have for you? How do you feel about meeting or not meeting these expectations?

How did that go? Were you surprised to get a clear look at some of the expectations that have been set for yourself? What did you learn?

About Holly Worton

Holly Worton helps authors make sense of social media so they can build their online platform and sell more books with her business Tribal Publishing. She also helps people achieve authentic happiness by answering The Three Happiness Questions with her blog Ready to Bloom.

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