You’re doing a great job. So before I get into this, go ahead and reassure yourself that you’re doing the best you can. Because you are. The problem is though that you have… high expectations.
There’s nothing wrong with having standards.
We all have them and we all stick to them to some degree. When it comes to your goals though, your expectations are likely too high. And it’s those heightened expectations that will consistently lead you astray.
The Problem With High Expectations
A common goal you see people set is that they want to lose weight. Now, that goal alone poses several issues. In the context of this story though, one of the big problems is that of the expectation surrounding the goal.
Because the first thing you’ll normally do when trying to lose weight is either:
- Exercise A LOT
- Or eat VERY LITTLE
You go from a state of pure rest to one of going to the gym three hours a day, seven days a week. Or from eating pizza every night, to eating four carrots in its place.
Why do you do that?
Well, part of it is surely because you want to see immediate results. So the more you do, the more results you hope to see. But more than that, what you really have are high expectations getting in the way.
Why You Give Up
You think — This won’t be hard; I have time for this; I need to be extreme in order to see results. All fair things to consider. Until you’re on day five and have already given up.
I’d quit too if I was in your position — your expectations are overinflated.
This doesn’t just apply to weight loss though. In 2020, I set a goal to read two books a month. It went well (I ended up reading over one book a week). However, that wasn't my first time setting a reading goal. In fact, it was something like the third or fourth time around.
So I knew what to expect. I knew what I was capable of.
How to Deal With High Expectations
If you’re working on a new goal that you’ve never attempted before, it can be challenging to know what the expectation should be.
- Am I putting in enough effort?
- Did I make this too difficult?
- Is it not difficult enough?
For new goals, you need to give yourself flexibility. If after a week or two the goal feels too easy, make it harder. For instance, let’s say you set a goal to swim one mile a week. If after two weeks it doesn’t feel tough enough, you can increase your goal to swim one mile, twice a week.
If it’s too difficult, make it easier.
For instance, let’s say you have a goal to bake 50 cakes by the end of the month. After four days though, you realize your timeline is way too ambitious. So instead, you can decrease your goal to make 50 cakes within three months.
You Can Still Dream Big
That same philosophy can be applied to goals that you have set before as well. It’s all about adjusting to the goal landscape as you go. Make things easier if they are too hard, make them harder if they’re too easy.
Find a balance.
In other words, you need to be flexible with your goals lest you fall victim to your high expectations. After all, the higher the expectations, the more painful it will be when you come up short.
And you will come up short from time to time. It’s part of the process.
Personally, if you told my 20-year-old self to lower my expectations and set a more reasonable goal, I’d roll my eyes, ignore you, and proceed with what I was doing. The great news though is that that’s in the past and I’ve had numerous experiences since then that encourage low expectations.
I still dream big, I still have ambitious aims, but the goals I set for myself now are manageable. They are small, sustainable steps in the right direction. And with time, like investments, they compound and grow.
Your Expectations Moving Forward
If I set a goal to complete ten books a month, I would never get past month one. So instead, I set a goal that was manageable for myself, one with reasonable expectations, and because of that, I read more in 2020 than ever before in my life.
So take a moment and look at your own goals.
Are your expectations too high? Are you leaning on your ambitions too much? If so, adjust your goals so that they’re a little less exhausting. They may not feel as lofty when you brag about them to your friends, but you don’t need to be bragging about them anyways (and you certainly don’t need to concern yourself with the high expectations of others).
Lower your expectations, stop quitting, and start moving forward.
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