How to challenge assumptions

We make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong.”- Don Miguel Ruiz

In today’s world, we are always under pressure to act now, rather than spend time reasoning things through and thinking about the true facts. We are often influenced and impacted by our friends family, our goals and aspirations. Our desire to lead a successful and healthy life can affect our habits, behaviour and how we live. But most of the times, we are also influenced by our expectations and assumptions as they too tend to influence our actions, behaviours and lives. We all have a tendency to make assumptions about everything, people and situations all the time and draw conclusions from them. We make assumptions about people’s feelings, needs, thoughts, motives and behaviours. Sometimes we guess about morality or credibility or goodness or badness in others. Despite facts and information, we bring our selective focus, our assumptions and our beliefs to what we think we observed. This not only derails us from our goals and stops progress in tracks but also creates self-imposed limitations, self-fulfilling prophecies, distorts motives and damages relationships. Also leads to wrong conclusions, results in conflicts, and impedes your creativity.

What are Assumptions?

An assumption is “something that you accept as true without question or proof.” They are often preconceived misconceptions about a situation, person, group or a task mostly based upon prior experiences with others or such situations. Assumptions are assuming the best or worst in people and believe them to be as absolute truths or swear they are real. Some examples are assuming that you are not good enough if you don’t get into a job you want or because you failed to get a promotion. Or you assume that most people are bad so don’t trust anyone you meet. Your parents never understood your choices, so you assume they don’t love you. At workplaces, assumptions lead to miscommunications, conflicts and affect your trust and productivity. For instance, assuming that a coworker has a full understanding of a project when they don’t Or assuming that people know why you came to a particular conclusion. Here is how certain assumptions lead to wrong actions.

• We make assumptions based on selective facts , beliefs and prior experiences.

• We then apply our existing assumptions and interpreted reality without considering facts and draw conclusions.

• We allow them to get embedded in our belief system and allow them take over based on these conclusions.

• We then take actions that seem ‘right’ because they are based on what we believe.

• This creates a vicious circle and can lead us to ignore true facts altogether thereby narrowing your field of judgment.

Why do we make assumptions?

When we are overwhelmed by fear of unknown or being unable to understand and prepare for certain events, we tend to make assumptions as they provide hope and direction in confusing times. But most often they are based on our emotions, superstitions, or misinformation and breed anxiety, hurt, anger and despair. They often lead to conflicts because of lack of shared understanding and agreements of the facts. According to cognitive science, in some ways, our brain is designed to make pattern or mental models to make it a more efficient machine. But most of our assumptions are actually learned behaviour. We tend to take on our parents’ or others’ assumptions such as assuming that we ‘do’ or ‘don’t’ deserve certain things or we ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ do certain things. As a result, we end up approaching our goals, objectives or relationships using patterning we learn from others.

We assume negative story lines when we feel left out or unacknowledged or when information we receive is incomplete. Our mind does best to make it a complete story or comes up with an answer to satisfy our questioning mind to return to a place of emotional safety. Sometimes, we are afraid to ask for clarification, so we make an assumption about what others are doing or thinking. We believe we are right about the assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally and we end up either reacting or defending and blaming others. Our need to justify everything, to explain and understand everything in order to feel safe is the reason why we make assumptions in the first place. In the absence of complete information, instead of asking questions, we tend to fill in the blanks with our interpretation of what we see and hear from past experiences, that seem similar. In trying to make sense of situation, we make assumptions.

How assumptions make you unproductive

Most of us like to think that when we assume, that we are right about our assumptions and that we have complete understanding of the situation. We think we know others’ skills, motives, abilities or competence. Because of this, we stop communicating and listening. Negative assumptions make us self-limiting and drive our behaviour in a negative way by creating spirals of self-doubt and black and white thinking. If we buy in to our assumptions – our mind is closed to various possibilities thereby disengaging us with others or opportunities. Instead of weighing up the information or evaluate the evidence, we draw unfounded conclusions in support of our assumptions or expectations both in personal or professional relationships. Especially in workplaces, we jump to conclusions without proper understanding of what Information is given or how that is understood or whether our goals are aligned with others.

In a work environment or in your personal life, when you make assumptions about others’ words, actions and motivations, you run a risk of being wrong and this can lead to unproductive habits, miscommunication and wrong decisions. We imagine that we understand why a person has taken a particular course of action and make a guess based on our past experiences, imagination or wishful thinking. Often we make the assumption that our partners in a business or personal relationship know what we think and that we don’t have to say what we want. If they don’t do what we assume they should do, we feel hurt, react or blame them damaging our professional or personal relationships. Assumptions change our attitude and outlook towards change or achieving any challenging goal. You can have vast knowledge and experience in the world, yet if you harbour the wrong assumptions, you become unproductive, stifle progress and are doomed to failure as they create lot of inner and outer conflict.

Many times we give into our assumptions like ‘we can’t do it’ or ‘it is too difficult’ and allow ourselves led by our limits, fears and give up on our goals. The problem with assumptions is that we make them as absolute truths and turn them into our beliefs. Here is why you should avoid making assumptions.

• Assumptions are an easy way out and are the major hindrance to your personal growth.

• Stifling negative assumptions show up as resistance to change and create no movement, no action therefore no results.

• They allow you to hide behind your version of the story and stop you from taking responsibility for your life.

• They keep you stuck in the past.

• Instead of asking questions to get to the facts, they make you jump to wrong conclusions.

• They lower your effectiveness in decision-making.

• They foster a negative and biased mindset and make you think that the others are there to get you.

• When making assumptions becomes a habit, we are less grounded in reality and more prone to creating problems for ourselves and others.

How to challenge your assumptions?

“The hardest assumption to challenge is the one you don’t even know you are making.”- Douglas Adams

Challenging and letting go of assumptions begins with willingness to let go of your rightness and revisit the thoughts you are holding onto. It is important to recognise how much your assumptions distorts things for you. Achieving workable and productive outcomes requires challenging such assumptions. The more you know what you are assuming, the more you can learn to get back to the facts and use your beliefs and experiences to a positive effect rather than allowing them to narrow your field of judgment. Here are some strategies to challenge yours and others assumptions.

Question your assumptions

A lot of times, we have trouble admitting that we assumed certain things. We tend to stick to our interpretation as an objective truth. Questioning gives space for other possibilities and gives you power to challenge your assumptions. A step by step reasoning process helps you remain objective when working or challenging your assumptions. Instead of drawing conclusions and making your decisions based on what you think you know, ask questions to challenge your thinking to get more clarity. Better questions include:

How do I know this? Is this the right conclusion? Why did I draw this conclusion? Why am I making these assumptions? Why do I think this is the right thing to do? Is my conclusion based on all the factsWhy do I believe this? Test your assumptions and conclusions. Analyse your reasoning by asking yourself WHAT you are thinking and WHY. Why have i chosen this course of action?What belief lead to this action? Are there other actions I should have considered?What am I assuming, and why? Are my assumptions valid? What are the facts that I should be using? Are there other facts I should consider?

Shift from expectations to ‘shared understanding’

If you are challenging someone else’s assumptions, it is especially important to be able to explain it to that person in a way that helps you reach a shared conclusion and avoid conflict. Expectations are just assumptions about the future. Many conflicts occur when your expectations differ from those of you work with. Do not assume that others know what is on your mind, know your tendencies or understand what your goals and expectations are. Take time to uncover the assumptions and expectations that are the root cause of conflict and convert them into shared understanding of facts. Trust others and be sure to encourage teamwork by clarifying your goals, expectations and their roles in achieving a task. Appreciate others’ contributions and communicate to avoid negativity. If you aren’t sure what someone’s intentions are, ask them. Develop a mindset of seeing people’s good intentions instead of always thinking that they are out to get you. Most of them may have different goals but they usually come from good intentions.

Be ‘mindful of your assumptions

Most of our assumptions are our thoughts we are so used to thinking and they can go by without us even noticing. If you aren’t sure where you are making assumptions, then look at places where you are stuck. Inevitably there will be an assumption you are holding on to or hiding out. Pay attention to when you are making assumptions and start to recognise that they are assumptions. Be mindful of moments where you feel yourself getting angry or feeling hurt by comment that someone makes towards you. Become self-aware of how many assumptions you make everyday by asking yourself as to whether your thinking is based on facts or are you filling in the blanks?

Being mindful and drawing your attention to the present to your thoughts can train you to catch more of your assumptions. Being mindful opens other possibilities and makes you unstuck from assumptions. Reflect on the following questions to challenge your assumptions. What facts do I have to prove this thought is true or isn’t true? What is a more realistic way of seeing this?Is this really my own opinion or did someone else teach it to me? Is this even really what I think or want to think in the future? What would it be like if the opposite of this assumption were true? What if I don’t need to know the answer about the person or situation?

‘Respond’ to others’ assumptions

Very often we find ourselves on the receiving end of other people’s opinions, perceptions and assumptions. When this happens, it can be tempting to react impulsively and become defensive. Or perhaps, if someone assumes the worst of us, we simply walk away from that person or situation, choosing to disconnect from them all together. When someone assumes wrongly about you, instead of reacting or arguing, use awareness to respond to them. Sometimes conflict can bring up tough emotions like anger. If you react in anger you can easily lose control of yourselves. Instead strive to understand why they are saying things they are.

When you feel hurt or angry about a comment that another person said to you, you should ask for clarification. It is better to clear your doubt to prevent misunderstandings. Give effective feedback to other person by listening effectively and being assertive in your response. Identify what you feel around the over-assuming person and focus on your emotions as they point what you need like to vent, learn, discuss, confront, or to set a limit to correct the other person’s assumption. Be modest, composed, and curious in your conversations and be willing to forgive for being imperfect. Communicate to the person and make your choices about how to respond. Base your response on true self in charge with clarity on your feelings and needs while maintaining mutual respect and attitude.

Communicate’ to challenge others’ assumptions

When someone reveals a negative assumption about you, communicate with the person with open-ended questions to question their assumptions:

I notice you are assuming that…

What led you to that conclusion?

Why do you think it will happen that way?

Where might that assumption come from?

How did you arrive at that assumption? What if that assumption is untrue?

What might happen if you choose a different action?

How can you verify or disprove that these assumptions are true?

Follow a non-judgmental approach to work with their negative assumptions about you to shift their perspective to build new insights.

Conclusion

Do you tend to make assumptions about your abilities or about others? Are your conclusions based on facts or assumptions? Does your opinions about a person or situation influence your conclusions? Have you ever had the experience of being in communication with someone who assumed you wrongly? Do you become defensive or respond to such conversations ? Note your tendencies so that you can learn to test your assumptions. Identify one or two assumptions you hold or heard and spend time challenging them. Ask yourself: what if it was untrue? What would happen if you let go of it? Are your insecurities colouring what you are thinking or feeling?

What you think more about, you create more of it. So if you dwell on your assumptions, your outer action will reflect them. In the beginning, it can feel uncomfortable to challenge that goes inside of your mind. Apply and practice the above strategies to successfully challenge your assumptions and to create awareness of how they are holding you back. Have open and honest communication in your conversations to develop trusting relationships in order to achieve your goals. When you change your assumptions from negative to positive, you unleash a stuck, blocked energy and can take action steps towards the results you seek.

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.” Alan Alda

Why Mindfulness is a must-have mental skill.

“The mind is everything. What you think you become” – Buddha

Each one of us wants to achieve our cherished goals or those which we think are within our reach. We are always in a constant chase in order to achieve them and other things which we think will make us happier. As a result, we either get into stress or discontentment with our present state of existence depending on what we can and cannot. We end up spending lot of time mulling over past mistakes and negative thoughts and want to get rid of anything that limits us.

Negative thinking is one of the reasons for underachievement. When you choose to engage in negative thinking you are deciding to believe in your inability rather than your possibility. How you think manifests in your actions. If your mind is always filled with jumbled, chaotic thoughts, that’s what your output will be. When you’re clear on what is important to you and on the type of person you want to be, it becomes easier to block out distracting mental noise so that you can focus on your goals and objectives. When we face overwhelm, self-doubt and various other unhelpful habits of mind, learning to pause them in their tracks puts you back in the productive state.

Mindfulness; key to being a productive self

We as humans are evolutionarily hard-wired to operate by a negatively biased mindset. In our daily life, be it personal or professional endeavours, there are emotional and mental challenges we experience as our work load keep changing as per work demands. Stressful conditions give rise to doubtful critical voice that makes us feel incapable of handling such situations. Having no intervention to keep such negative thoughts in check can result in cognitive and emotional derailment. However, mindfulness provides for a non-confrontational intervention where you can choose to pivot your thinking and stop the broken record of unhelpful thought looping on repeat.

Mindfulness meditation is not only a way to gain insight into your own mind; it also serves as one of the primary ways to become aware of the negative thoughts and emotions that are blocking you from focusing on your goals. In meditation, content from your subconscious that you hide from the world and from your own awareness reveals itself. When negative thoughts rise up to the surface of awareness, you can choose to respond rather than recoil or react to them impulsively. Allowing yourself to observe your present moment reduces stress and increases your wellbeing and productivity.

So, what is mindfulness meditation?

In mindfulness meditation, we’re learning how to pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task. This practice of returning to the breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness. When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement. When we practice mindfulness, we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on.

Mindfulness meditation improves the quality of your thoughts and thus helpful for gaining more focus on what you want rather than past or future. No longer will you constantly be at the whim of your racing thoughts. Instead, you can focus on the people and goals that matter most. there are two main functions our brains perform during mindful meditation:

• The generation of thoughts, feelings and emotions — these are transient and can change from one moment to the next;

• The observation of information, data and feedback without judgment, evaluation or criticism, or without even trying to make sense of it.

We learn to listen to and accept the thoughts and feelings that arise within us. We practice being able first to notice that we are having these unfavorable thoughts, labels, criticisms, judgments and feelings, and then we pause them in their tracks by choosing to observe them: 

Even though the idea behind mindfulness meditation seems simple – it requires patience and commitment to stay fully aware of the present moment because our mind quickly gets caught up in other tasks. And also sometimes, the present moment becomes unacceptable and unpleasant. Because of this many of us experience a kind of resistance during the meditation process. This resistance is born out of our inability to accept the moment as it is. A state of well-being cannot be achieved by suppressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be achieved only by becoming mindful of everything that arises in your awareness and by observing and accepting thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise without judgment or expectation. This process helps you to step out of your resistance patterns.

How to practice mindful meditation

To begin the process of mindfulness meditation, get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes and simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath. Focus on your breath. Try to observe where you feel your breath most, In your belly? In your nose? and try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale. Follow your breath for two minutes. Notice How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath? Did notice how busy your mind was even without your consciously directing it to think about anything in particular? Did you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts before you came back to your breath? We often have little narratives running in our minds that we didn’t choose to put there or tasks that we want to get to. We all experience these sorts of distractions. Here are some insights that you can include in your meditation practice to overcome such distractions.

Set firm intentions

Meditating with right intentions develops focus, determination, patience, and perseverance. Intentions are agreements you make with yourself and then express through your actions in your daily activities. If you don’t set firm intentions, you will eventually find yourself wandering and might lose sight of the reason you are meditating. Intentions set can be small or large. Aim is to discover your genuine intentions or goals and objectives that you want to focus on and affirm those with certainty in your meditation practice. Express each intention in small phrases in present tense as if it is true. This enables your subconscious mind to register them as actualities. Resolutely follow and affirm your intentions for they enable you to overcome negative emotions, and thoughts.

Tap into the feeling of being

Everyday distractions keeps you away from experiencing the joy of simply being. Practice meditation not to become whole, but to connect to your existing wholeness. Realise that wholeness is your birth right and you are more than a limited individual. Just being is a familiar feeling that you have always known, although you may have ignored it until now. Notice how, when you are simply being, you are perfect just as you are. Affirm your intention to experience the feeling of being. With a regular practice, you can learn to connect to your existing wholeness amidst your daily life. During the practice, simply experience the presence and aliveness of being. Staying focused on the sensation of being slows your thinking and eventually turns off negative thoughts.

Connect to something bigger

Meditation helps us to get in touch with universal life force that connects us all. Learn to align with this force through mindful meditation. This connection with bigger force results in a state of well-being. With an expansive mind, you are not narrowly focused on how things should be and on other small desires, but will be able to see those as part of bigger picture. Connecting to and experiencing the universal life force enhances concentration and your present opens up to infinite possibilities. This enables you to interact and respond rather than contract and react. The expansiveness of mind gives a meaning and purpose to your life and sets up positive emotions to go after your goals.

Practice mindful breathing

Taking hold of your breath builds concentration. Meditating on your breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool to prevent dispersion and enables you to release obsessive thinking. Observing and following breath exhalations and inhalations enhances your ability to sense and respond to the information your body is sending. Awareness of your breathing patterns allows you to make changes where required to maintain equilibrium. You can continue to do so while walking, sitting or when you are outdoors. You can also practice to count your number of inhalations and exhalations to develop focused attention and concentration. When you recognise you are distracted, gently bring back your attention back to your breath. Breath-counting helps you to maintain a single- pointed focus.

Accept your thoughts and emotions

Meditating on your feelings and thoughts makes you stay calm, grounded, and healthy. There can be many disharmonious, negative, and disturbing thoughts that arise during the process. Meditate focusing on them. When such strong feelings arise, refusing to accept and labelling them as enemies will only make them come back more strongly as if they are here to convey important information. You need to welcome and experience emotions both negative and positive. Know that they are not your enemies but are just seeking your attention. Learn to observe and respond instead of reacting. By focusing on every thought and its opposite, anxiety, fear, and  self- judgements no longer control your life. You can no longer remain a hostage to your negative emotions.

Welcome feelings of joy

Joy is an essential emotion which is already within us, waiting to be experienced no matter what the outside circumstances may be. But many of us believe that it only comes by material possessions or achieving a particular outcome. We keep searching for it outside in objects, relationships, and other experiences. When you deny the feelings of joy which is a natural phenomenon, you lose life’s meaning and its purpose.

During meditation, welcoming the feelings of joy also brings with them its opposite. Experiencing both joy and its opposite makes you realise how stressful the opposite is and how it affects your body and mind. When it feels right, release the stressful thought and let joy radiate through you. This can unearth unchanging feelings of joy irrespective of the circumstances thereby reducing the perceptions of pain, anxiety, and depression.

Contemplate on interdependence

Meditating on the interdependent nature the universe makes you realise that everything is a part of an interconnected wholeness. We normally see reality in compartments and make boundaries around ourselves. Because of this we are unable to see the interdependent nature of the world we live in. We are connected and not separate  in our suffering and in our desire to be happy. When you live the sufferings and joy of others, you start to realise the impermanence of the universe and can strengthen the positive emotions of gratitude and compassion. Experience yourself as a unique expression of life, interconnected with the Universe.

Finally, If you have a long-standing habit of negative thinking, the first step of managing your negative thoughts is simply knowing that they exist. If they are to grow out of control, they might cause lot of despair. Focus on your most troubling thoughts in mindfulness meditation even if you feel uncomfortable. This is where the core of your distress lies. Our deepest beliefs and personal truths will be at the base of all our thoughts. These thoughts fixate in negative outcomes. To untangle from these destructive thinking patterns, you have to be aware of how they work. When you recognise the negative thought patterns, counter them with alternative messages that are positive and optimistic based on truth and not fear. How and what you think can determine relative happiness of your life.

To conclude,

Do not take meditation as some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in your brain. Just practice bringing your attention to your breath, and then back to the breath when you notice your attention has wandered. Include the above insights as individually or apply them all together. Insightful meditation not only helps to bring your attention back to your breath but also gives you a focus to keep your thoughts meaningful and positive. And allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and world around you. Your negative notions start to fade, instead of chasing you and wearing you down. While meditation isn’t a cure-all, it can certainly provide you some much-needed space to make better choices and focus needed to achieve your goals.

Nourish your intention of making meditation a daily practice. Invest in making this skill an essential feature of your mental toolkit. You’ll not only leap leagues ahead of your competition, but you’ll also move faster and further toward your chosen goals. The noise in your head will quieten and your feelings of overwhelm will lessen even though the workload and increased responsibilities remain. Be patient with yourself and perseverant and you will be able to notice small changes right away.

How to manage your expectations

“The quality of our expectations determines the quality of our action.
– A. Godin

We always hold onto conscious and unconscious expectations when it comes to our friends, coworkers, superiors or subordinates, or from other personal or professional relationships . These expectations we all tend to hold onto, about ourselves, others and about the situations we find ourselves in directly influence us. As these expectations become targets or plans for the future. They not only influence what you are going to attempt and your confidence but also your attitude, decisions, behaviours, perspectives and your interactions with others. So, when we hold onto realistic expectations, they direct us in positive ways and towards our goals. However, many of us have a habit of often holding onto unrealistic, negative or sometimes to failed expectations that not only distort our perception of reality but they also lead us away from the goals and objectives we want to achieve.

In general, expectations are required for us to function. It is a good thing to set standards and expect for them to be met in our personal or professional endeavours. But problems arise when we fail to give the right balance to expectation, such as expecting more or less from others or ourselves, than we ought to. It is then that we set ourselves up for disappointment. There is a difference between having realistic standards for behaviour or performance and expectations. Because sometimes our expectations might be based upon strongly held assumptions.

Downside of having unrealistic expectations:

Some of our expectations are may be unrealistic or unreasonable because of the unjustified assumptions and conclusions we make. Such expectations make you think that things will go your way and create unnecessary stress and disappointment when things don’t work out. Sometimes they drive deception because of your past perceptions. For example, your worries are often built upon a set of unrealistic expectations and beliefs that end up influencing your behaviour negatively. Also living up to others unreasonable expectations creates stress and frustration. Expecting others to do what is in your interest also leads to resentment when the outcome is less likely than what you imagined it would be. Also when you try to live up to others’ expectations, the gap that arises between what people expect from you and who you are leads to frustration of yours and others as well.

Low expectations vs high expectations

Setting our expectations high or low generally has objective consequences. Many think one way to avoid disappointment and unhappiness is to have low expectations. This gives rise to a notion that you should lower your expectations to increase your well-being. But this may not hold true factually. Research shows that people with higher expectations are generally happier, whether they succeed or fail. Their findings were based on the result of three cognitive processes.

First, what matters for your well-being is how you interpret the events you encounter. For instance, a student with low expectations who got an A might attribute to his luck and not to his effort. But another who expected an A but got C might put in more effort next time and even turn hopeful that he would eventually get an A. But a student with higher expectations who succeeds, he attributes it to his personal potential. Second, adjusting people’s expectations upward led to bettering their performance. For instance, most of the times it is enough to encourage students with the word ‘clever’ to make them score higher. And the third, having high expectations about the future made them happier in present.

So, the key to increase our productivity and well-being is not to lower our expectations but is the ability to identify and release unrealistic or unreasonable expectations or assumptions of ours and others. It has more to do with the ability to interpret negative outcomes in a positive way. setting high expectations for yourself and working hard towards achieve them proves to be more productive. Setting high expectations not only improves your productivity but also makes you more inclined towards learning from your mistakes. On the contrary, if someone is basing his/her performance on low expectations or on unhelpful or unrealistic expectations, then he/she will be more likely to fail, less productive and will be less inclined to learn from their errors.

We cannot get rid of our own and others’ expectations as they play an important role in our everyday interactions and in achieving our objectives. Be it an individual or as an organisation’s expectations, they play a crucial part in our planning and productivity. This is because many times optimism bias tends to influence our future success. To achieve your goals, you should be able to effectively manage your own expectations and of others. Handling failed, unrealistic and negative expectations in positive ways can help you achieve your goals and objectives. Here are some ways to manage your own expectations and others’ expectations of you.

Managing your own expectations

unrealistic expectations. At times, we hold onto unreasonable expectations about ourselves both personal and professional situations we find ourselves in. This is mostly because of inaccurate information we have or due to our unjustified conclusions or preconceived notions. Such expectations may distort our perception of reality and lead us down the wrong path. Asking right kind of questions can make you aware of the conclusions we are drawing at any moment and helps you to handle your expectations. It is important to challenge such expectations by asking yourself what your expectations are, are you basing them on assumptions or facts and whether or not it is reasonable to hold onto such expectations in the first place. Check as to what set of expectations would be more helpful for you in that situation. Challenge your unreasonable expectations to set realistic and helpful expectations in a specific situation.

Negative expectations. Sometimes certain negative expectations manifest from self-doubt and pessimism creating failure scenarios. Recognising the possible consequences of such expectations can help you handle them positively. In order to handle your doubts, challenge your limiting beliefs. What do you expect will happen? How do you know for sure that things will turn out this way? What if the way you are thinking about is flawed? Look for more empowering ways to think and handle such negative expectations. The more you challenge your doubts and limiting beliefs, the more confident you will be to develop more realistic and positive expectations that align with your goals.

Failed expectations At times, you might have set a goal that you believed that you would achieve but didn’t quite turned out that way. In such situations, instead of giving into limiting emotions like fear of failure and disappointment, or thinking that you are inadequate or incapable, look for what you can learn from them. The result is not what you expected but it doesn’t change what you are capable of. Treat it as a failed attempt that you must learn and grow from. In order to deal with failed expectations, check whether your expectations are flexible or are you expecting very specific results based on preset conditions. When your expectations are not flexible, there won’t be enough margin left to allow you to make changes when conditions change. Check how your expectations turn out if conditions change and how you need to adapt to these changing conditions.

It is good to set goals and achieve them. But it is important to note that expectations aren’t the same as targets and you should ignore brain’s need to expect the same thing over and over. Identify where your expectations are coming from and look for any confirmation bias. Do not let your past experiences dictate your expectations. Instead of seeking evidence to confirm your perspective of how things are same, make an effort to look for what is different in a situation the second time you come across it.

Managing other’s expectations

Sometimes, we make certain decisions based on how others expect us to perform. Others can help us raise or lower our productivity levels. However, when we fail to live up to others’ expectations or when their expectations don’t align with our goals, we experience disappointment and it gives rise to frustration and resentment. Here are ways to manage others’ expectations.

Communicate with others to clarify. Expectations if not clearly defined or expressed can lead to failure and frustration. Communicate with the person setting the expectations for you. A person who is setting unreasonable expectations might be unaware that he or she is putting unfair pressure on you. When in doubt ask whether it is your friends, coworkers or children as to what it is that they want or need in that particular situation. Talk to the person and be clear about what’s expected, how it might be accomplished and make them aware of your boundaries are. For instance, what your limitations are, your flexibility, or your availability and so on. Let others know about your preferences and your plans so that they don’t expect anything that is unreasonable or unrealistic. Communicate with everyone involved in a frequent basis to avoid any assumptions they have of you.

Anticipate worst-case scenarios We are aware of the expectations others have of us, but in an effort to impress them, we forget to take into account setbacks, obstacles or other interferences that come in our way. Do not assume that things will go as you expect. For bigger tasks or projects, anticipating every possible outcome and being prepared for worst-case scenarios will help you in making your expectations more realistic.

Be aware of biases and perspectives of others. Expectations from your relationships, both personal and professional might lead to unhappiness if they are based on preconceptions and other biases. Having a clear understanding of others expectations gives you an opportunity to improve or correct your decisions and choices. Make sure you understand the context and avoid falling into the trap of their biases and preconceptions. Do not assume that others have the same understanding of a situation as you do. Gain awareness of others’ assumptions, biases and perspectives if there are any. This gives you a proper perspective of what they are expecting of you.

Finally, Manage your expectations of others

Sometimes, our expectations of others can also be unreasonable. Such expectations also put pressure on people to meet those expectations. Challenging and pushing them to raise their personal standards can be very empowering. But the key is to avoid putting unreasonable and unnecessary expectations onto others. When you place unreasonable expectations on others, you place yourself at a high risk of getting disappointed. Such disappointments can lead to an increased anger toward the person causing the disappointment. Be mindful of what is it that you are truly expecting from others. Think of what’s unreasonable to expect of other person given their ability and their current circumstances. Ask yourself whether would you expect the same of yourself if you are in that particular situation. This will help you to make your expectations of others more reasonable and realistic.

To conclude,

So, what expectations are you holding onto? Are your current expectations helpful and realistic? Are your expectations too low or too high? Are you being reasonable in your expectations of others? Do you communicate clearly to others what you expect and about your limitations? Are your expectations flexible? Do you focus on communicating who you are or Are your conversations full of expectations of who you should be? Do you strive to fulfil others’ expectations at the expense of your needs? Ask yourself the above questions to be more aware and mindful of your expectations.

Our success and failure can be largely defined through how we manage our expectations of ourselves and of others. At the same time, managing your expectations of others is also important to navigate yourself through your work situations and in your personal relationships. Instead of getting bogged down by various expectations, use the above strategies to change your expectations to ones that are more in line with your goals and to manage them effectively.

How to get unstuck

Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” – Mandy Hale

We all at times feel stagnated or emotionally stuck, worthless, and confused. These feelings often build slowly overtime and may evolve into anxiety, fear, depression or overwhelm. We all experience that feeling where we just don’t feel like ourselves anymore or we feel stressed, exhausted or irritable as though we are trapped and starting to question ourselves as to ‘is this the real me’? And we have all these goals we desperately like to achieve and somewhere along the way we have lost our drive and we lack forward momentum. It is like you’re doing the same old thing, but it doesn’t seem like you are actually getting anywhere. Instead of moving forward toward your goals, you feel as though you are just stuck at the same point going in circles. You then struggle and force yourself to work, to come up with ideas or to make things happen in such a state.

When you are stuck, things feel immovable, entrenched and even hopeless. This constant feeling of life should be different than it is makes you force yourself to do something and words like ‘should’, ‘have to’ and ‘must’ appear in your thinking. Being stuck is like you getting stuck in quicksand, the more you try to get out, the deeper you sink as your mind tends to push, control, and manipulate. We feel as if we simply cannot move on with our goals as if there was something that kept us from pursuing our dreams. As a consequence, we feel limited and held back without an idea how to break free from such invisible obstacles or limitations.

If you’re feeling stuck, this may be why

When you feel stuck, your mind is filled with confusion and inner conflict and you cannot see the possibilities all around you as you get caught up in the negativity, mistaken assumptions, and limiting beliefs. There are some valid reasons why you feel like you are stuck at the moment. Understanding these reasons can help you become aware of how you got yourself into such state.

Toxic emotions like shame, fear, guilt, anger or flawed can stifle your energy and prevent you from being yourself. When you get stuck, may be you spiralled off into a cascade of regrets about the past, worry about the future, or judgment about yourself. You keep repeating old thoughts and behaviours that no longer fit the current reality. Sometimes, your need to be right leads to conflict with others rather than understanding. You try to protect yourself from these unpleasant feelings by being overtly defensive in a way to avoid taking responsibility for your behaviour. These hidden toxic emotions often serves to keep you stuck.

Stuck in the past. When you want to move forward, our mind has a tendency to look to the past and tries to find solutions based on past or what it already knows. It might be your past failure or a deep-seated belief that might be keeping you stuck.

Fear of unknown. Whatever you fear limits you from moving forward. Fear of unknown sabotages your own progress. Living a life without risks might seem like a logical thing to do. But gets you used to your comfort zone and makes it difficult to ever break free from it. This habit leads you to become stuck in life.

Physical and mental exhaustion. We all try to fulfil our dreams through relentless effort and overcoming obstacles. While determination and focus are valuable qualities, expending need less energy, stress and exhaustion take over your life. When you are stressed, your attention gets scattered to pursue meaningful and purposeful goals making you feel stagnant.

Self-doubt and feeling unworthy

Self-judgment is one of the greatest reason that people get stuck. When you judge yourself as unworthy, you don’t believe in yourself or in your abilities. You keep your expectations low and resist the positive changes because you fear that you are incapable of reaching your desired outcome and remain stuck in an unchallenging position.

Constant disappointment. When you fail to meet your expectations or when you make mistakes or fail, you get disappointed. Constant disappointments make you feel helpless. As a result, you are stuck in the same situation unable to move forward towards your desired goals.

Lack of focus and purpose. May be you are stuck because you lack focus and purpose or you’ve set no goals. May be it is because you have no active passions or you have too much to handle and are unable to focus on your priorities. Lack of direction keeps you stagnant.

Limited perspective and hope. Wallowing in pessimism and constant worrying can keep you stuck in the same place. This not only limits your possibilities but also generates unhelpful emotions like frustration and hopelessness. Limited perspective holds you back from reaching your highest potential.

Lack of motivation. When you are not motivated intrinsically or if you are pursuing things that you are not passionate enough, you lack enthusiasm to take positive action or to move forward.

Being in ‘stuck’ state further manifests into

• Avoidance of people, situations and tasks

• Unproductive habits

• Criticizing others

• Procrastination

• Perfectionism

• Negativity

So, what can you do to get unstuck?

Getting stuck is not a problem. Staying stuck is. Good learners practice getting unstuck.” – Alistair Smith

Having a clear understanding why you are stuck is the first step towards moving forward. Now since you have identified that there are changes that need to be made, the next step involves willingness to change and to make those changes to break free from feeling stuck. Here are some more strategies to get unstuck.

Improve your emotional agility

Certain emotional responses might cloud your perception of reality. Sometimes feeling stuck could be a response to exaggerated expectations. Be mindful and accept your difficult emotions to improve your emotional agility. Identify your toxic emotions to understand what they are telling you- what you can learn about your desires, boundaries, or needs. One way to get perspective on difficult emotions is to write them down. Call it, name it, and define it. Putting your emotions into words gives them less power. This doesn’t mean they won’t return, but you will be more prepared to not to get stuck. Also negative emotions can be clues to your deepest insecurities and to your inconsistencies. So, you can make small course corrections to move forward in right direction. Emotional agility is choosing how you will respond to your emotional warning system by loosening up, calming down and living with more intention.

Face your fears

If you want to get unstuck, acknowledge your fears and accept the situation you are in. Changing how you perceive your fears might not make your fears disappear but you can move ahead inspite of them. Don’t allow your fear of losing what you have to stop you from moving on. Try to think about the worst possible outcome of that which is causing you anxiety or keeping you stuck. It might be just your fear trying to persuade you to do nothing about your situation that is keeping you stuck. It is important to realise that you would be still be able to find a way out and can initiate positive change. Do not allow your perceived fear discourage you from making changes.

Broaden your perspective

Limited perspectives can decrease your ability to see existing opportunities. You feel as if you have seemingly impossible options to implement. Your limited thinking patterns and an array of unhelpful choices can contribute to the feeling of being stuck. It is your inflexibility what keeps you stuck. Instead of getting trapped by your limited perspectives and thinking patterns, try to explore new possibilities by learning new skills, insights, knowledge and information. Break yourself from negative beliefs and explore new perspectives by asking yourself, what reasons am I telling myself? What excuses am I making? What patterns am I seeing? Your excuses might be keeping you from moving forward. Think long-term and reconnect to broader perspective and improve your possibilities by opening yourself to new experiences and people.

Let go of past mistakes

Holding onto past failures and mistakes leads to self-doubt and decreases your self-belief. You might be holding yourself back from making certain decisions and choices because of your past regrets. This leads to indulging in unproductive and unhelpful habits like procrastination or self-sabotage. Do not allow your past mistakes and failures to keep you right where you are. stop rationalising and focusing on all the different reasons that keep you stuck. Learn from them by reflecting on them and put things in perspective to make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again. Taking some time out to reflect on all the successes you had and things you achieved can also help you to get unstuck.

Break unproductive routine

Feeling stuck can be the result of your unhelpful and unproductive habits or restraining routines. While we are creatures of habits, our habits can quickly become stale, leaving us feeling stuck or unsatisfied in certain areas of our lives. Developing certain habits and routines can be quite helpful as they provide a structure to work with. But at the same time, they can also limit your possibilities as some of them can be time-wasting and unhelpful. Stagnation often results when you continue to do the same thing over and over again for long period of time. Your usual routine can develop into restrictive rules and obligations. This regular routine can turn unproductive and needs to be broken in order to free yourself from feeling stuck.

Reevaluate your goals

At times, you might be stuck for all the wrong reasons. May be your goals are not serving your purpose or you are stuck because you are doing for someone else’s benefit. Asking yourself as to whether your goals are serving your present purpose or do they need to be modified provides forward momentum. Also prioritising those that are in alignment with your core values and life purpose can help you find the right motivation you need to move out of your stuck state. Gain clarity on why and what you are indulging in and what would you prefer to do instead. Set some new goals that you are passionate about and create a plan of action to get unstuck.

Conclusion

Do you feel that you have no traction in your life and that you are just spinning your wheels? What is stopping you? Is it your mindset, belief, fear or an excuse? Are your current patterns helping you in making progress? Or are you feeling stuck? Are your negative emotions dominating your life? What specific fears are keeping you stuck? How are your existing habits hurting you? What new habits could you develop to support your goals? Why must you get out of this stuck state? What changes can you make to get unstuck?

Asking yourself above questions can help you in arriving at possible solutions.

It is natural to feel stuck during some points in our life and these moments exist to remind us that we are always growing and evolving. If you feel stuck in some areas of your life, you don’t have to remain where you are. Remember that “stuckness” never has to be permanent. Even if you feel like you’ve been stuck forever, you always have the freedom to choose new goals by making small changes in your life to find your way out. With the help of the above strategies, identify the reasons and areas you need to work on and choose to make the necessary changes to create the forward momentum you need to achieve your goals.