Part of being clear about your life is managing expectations. For you to live out an amazing life, you must manage your expectations while simultaneously being aspirational. Where people get into trouble is when their expectations are not met. People measure their lives and their happiness based on their expectations.
For example, if I promised you that I would give you $100 in a week and I give you $75, you are going to be disappointed. However, if I promise you $50 and give you $75 you’re going to be ecstatic. The end result is exactly the same. The only thing that changed were the expectations. Much of stress and frustration are born out of misguided expectations. When I was a kid and a teenager, my experiences were not that different. After all, all kids needed rides from their parents. Most of my friends were schoolmates and lived in my neighborhood and I had a pretty normal and great experience as a youth. My assumption was that if I kept on living my life then my disability would always be a nuisance like it was when I was younger. Those expectations were not based in reality. They were based in hope. When my life started to diverge from my expectations I became frustrated. Throughout my life, I had to recalibrate my expectations based on my disability and my dreams. This process is never ending. I had to look at everything from my professional life to my love life. I had to base my expectations on my abilities, my disability, dreams, and where I fit in society. This is a never-ending journey that we are all on.
When people set goals and start working on them, it is easy to abandon them based on unmet or unrealistic expectations. You cannot expect to eat well one day and jump on a scale expecting to have lost weight. You cannot expect to not have cravings or get tired of stupid chicken breasts. This is one reason that most New Year’s resolutions fail. The results come slowly and the heavens don’t open up to you right away. It takes effort, engagement, and work to achieve your goals.
There is a process for any goal. There is a process for losing weight, opening up a company, getting over a psychological barrier, having a successful relationship, or even being happy. This process needs to be detailed and customized. You won’t know what works until you try it a whole bunch of different ways and tweak any goal. The process that you use to lose the first five pounds is not the same process you are going to use to lose the next ten. The process that you use to raise a toddler is going to be different than the process you are going to use to raise an adolescent. The process that you use to get to $100K in your business is going to be different than the process of getting to one million dollars. Expectations are going to be fluid and change over time.
Another way that expectations can hurt is that you have wrong expectations for the people in your life. Pandering politicians promise that they can get your life back on track. However, the way that I see politics is that they are responsible for setting up a fair environment where people can excel. Unfortunately, people have wrong expectations from the government.
We also have unrealistic expectations of others and we think we can change other people when, in reality, we’re lucky if we can change ourselves. Where people get in trouble is that they think other people will change just because we want them to change. In reality, we need to work with people who share at least a good portion of our visions and values. If a girl meets a guy and knows that he watches football all day on Sunday, she should not be surprised when he watches football on Sunday.
When we want to choose who we invite into our lives, we need to choose people who can help us to reach our goals. If we work with people who don’t have the same values or the same vision work ethic, we can’t expect the results that we desire.
Also, we can’t expect others to “guess what we want.” People crave direction, and if we don’t give it to them, there’s no way we can expect the results that we want. Others may be unwilling or unable to give us what we want or need. We are dealing with different people, skill sets, desires, values, and dreams. Instead of expecting people to change, find people who are a good match.
When you work with people, it’s important to set expectations and reinforce them often. Others should know your boundaries, acceptable behavior, whether to text or call, values, and anything important to that relationship. It should be clear to both parties and not be a suggestion.
Any time you start a new relationship, expectations need to be set early and enforced often. Whoever you deal with needs to understand and respect the boundaries that you expect. If you are in a professional environment you should express the behaviors that you want, the standard procedures, how to treat co-workers, etc. If you enter into any kind of relationship, you need to express what is acceptable behavior, demand respect, and express what you need. Where relationships fall apart is when they don’t think about what behaviors they accept and they let bad behavior slide. This is especially important when raising children because they look up to you for a standard. Human beings push boundaries and we all want to see what we can get away with. Some people want to get away with being ten minutes late. Some people want to see if they can push you around. Some people want to borrow money. Some employees want to see if they can get an extra two days off. Children want to get an extended bedtime, ten minutes more on their iPad, or an extended curfew. One component to a successful relationship is setting boundaries and expectations.
Your reputation is a form of setting expectations. Everybody that knows you has a narrative about who you are, your skillset, your values, your reliability, your emotional stability, and many more factors. If you want to excel, you need to set expectations for yourself and exhibit those behaviors in every action that you take. You are always auditioning for your future life and you can either reinforce a positive reputation or not.
Don’t set expectations based on convenience. Set them on your dreams. Set a goal, then ask how, then the other way around. Although I have to base my life around my disability, it does not mean that I have to lower my expectations just because I’m disabled. I have to tweak them a little (or a lot). In my life, this means that, rather than being in the office on the westside of Los Angeles, I had to create a home office, and instead of hustling around town, I had to write, speak, and coach.
Life is a delicate balance between telling life what you want and listening to life and hearing what’s possible. This is a never-ending journey.