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.

Don’t let yourself get consumed by envy.

“As iron is eaten by rust, so are the envious consumed by envy.” – Antisthenes

Envy is the emotion that all of us experience from time to time. It is an emotional state we get into when others get what we want or it can stem from comparisons in belongings, personality traits, physical appearances, relationships and or achievements. Regardless of the personal or professional climate, people at all levels are vulnerable to envy. Feelings of envy can also happen in domains of work, family and friendship negatively impacting our emotional health, productivity levels, relationships, teamwork, and creative abilities.

So Why do we feel envy?

Envy is like most of our other emotions, it comes from within and causes lot of unhappiness and resentment. It’s important to remember, though, that you don’t feel envy when as much when someone achieves great success in a different life pursuit. But you feel envy when someone who is of roughly the same background, abilities, age, location, life situation or achieves something similar to your goal in your field of choice. When you compare yourself to others, you mostly compare in extrinsic qualities or things like fame, status or wealth rather than intrinsic values like meaning or purpose. This is the reason, your initial response will often be one of envy when you compare. Being surpassed by another’s ability makes you feel insecure about your concept of who you are.

Also, when you are constantly exposed to stories of success which makes them seem so close within your reach. This makes you crave for the same opportunities and achievement they appear to have. Feelings of envy also arise when someone achieves something that you have always wanted to achieve, or when someone you don’t like succeeds or when someone manages to get something and you think that he or she doesn’t deserve it.

Why is envy harmful to your productivity?

“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.” – Franois de la Rochefoucauld

Even though enviousness makes you lead your life in constant hope to have more. It can never lead to better outcomes like the way you can with intrinsic motivation.

Envying others and worrying about others’ successes will make you blind to your own potential, strengths and to the weaknesses of rivals. Sometimes, we make ourselves feel better by belittling the accomplishments of the person we resent and tend to distance and disconnect ourselves. Such envious emotions leads to missed opportunities, unproductive behaviour and professional inefficiency. Ignoring other people’s ideas or dismissing the value of others’ qualities due to envy makes it difficult for you to learn and collaborate.

Envy also increases your insecurity, self-doubt, and lowers your self-esteem. Most of all, when you become so fixated on envy, you start to neglect or sabotage your own efforts or performance. When others successes bother you, you become ruminative and lose focus on your priorities. Envy interferes with your ability to think and act and instead of working on attaining what is important to you, it focuses your energy on what you lack.

Envious feelings are difficult to manage if you try to conceal and deny as the repressed feelings inevitably surface. Also with envy, the gap is between what you have and what the other person has or it may be that the other has something you want to have but don’t have thereby making you feel of inferior.

So, How to deal with your envy constructively?

You can recognise your potentially, destructive thoughts and behaviours by being honest with yourself when you feel envy and try to respond to it constructively. Instead of allowing the emotion to linger and derail, you can try and interpret it as a signal for what it is and what is that you actually want to achieve and can turn them into more positive and productive ones to set and achieve your goals. Envy is mostly about relative status compared with someone else’s, hence you need to know how to transform your envy to help you achieve what you want. And also freeing yourself from the control of envy liberates you from unrealistic and counterproductive desires. And you can make progress in the areas you want to grow.

Here are few ways to deal with your envy in a more productive and positive manner.

Understand your envy

When you identify with your envy, don’t ignore or conceal it but at the same time don’t continue feeding it. Instead try to understand what’s really behind the envy. Envy can tell you a lot about what you want. The key is to understand the circumstances and qualities in others that trigger your envy. Ask yourself what is that you are most insecure about. Witnessing someone else’s success can highlight your own insecurities and perceived failures. Once you understand the WHY, the feeling will have much less control over you. Not doing things that you want to be doing is when envy has a perfect breeding ground. Through understanding, you can use it as an opportunity to see the gap between what you are doing right now and what you still aspire to do in the future and what are the other areas you can improve.

Get to your core self-concept

Getting to the essence of your self-concept helps you connect to your core values, your needs, and things that are most important to you. Most often we include things such as money, abilities, physical appearance or status as part of our self-concept. When you evaluate yourself lower than how you evaluate those around you in comparison to these things, you may see it as a threat to who you are and experience envy. Gain clarity on your core values and instead of comparing yourself with others, measure your past self with present self. Reminding yourself of your strengths, past accomplishments and your core values, you can fix your mental self-image and thereby remove any feelings of insecurity you might be feeling. There is no reason for you to envy what others have when those things don’t align with your core values.

Shift your focus to gratitude

Being intentionally grateful can help you put greater emphasis on what you have rather than what you do not have that is causing you to be envious. Gratitude creates feelings of connectedness to a bigger purpose and increases feelings of empathy rather than envy. Make a list of things you are thankful for, no matter how small they are. Shifting your focus to positive life events or the small everyday occurrences can help you not to take what you have for granted. When you compare yourself with others and label the outcomes of your comparison as good or bad, you tend to lower your self-worth. Instead be grateful of your uniqueness, talents and abilities and remind yourself that no body has it all. Rather than fixating on what you don’t have, make gratitude your strategy to replace each envious thought with a moment of gratitude.

Be realistic in assessing others

We always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions we make about others. Be realistic in assessing others. Everyone experiences their own problems, trials and weaknesses. But if you place more value on others’ abilities, you tend to devalue your own. Constant exposure to social media creates a delusion that everyone else’s life is happier than yours, more productive and more valuable. When you fall prey to such delusion, you start feeding yourself with envy and begin to think that everything else is better and not yours. That friend or coworker or relative who seems to have an amazing life might be striving to put his or her best face forward. Correct your false assumptions about others and realise that everyone struggles with something or the other in their life.

Stop comparing yourself to others

We tend to judge ourselves by comparing with others. Comparison to people who are similar to you is a normal process to evaluate yourself and to improve your skills or abilities. But the judgment and value you place on your self-judgment can lead to envy. Comparing yourself to others is a great way to learn and comparing yourself to people who are sufficiently different or ahead of you can make you strive out of inspiration instead of envy. Focus on yourself to be better and stronger. Being able to applaud success of others without having negative reaction leads to more opportunities. When somebody receives something that you desire, be happy for them. If you wanted they too probably wanted the same. Stop judging yourself negatively by focusing on your strengths and knowing for certain that your are worthy can be enough to eliminate any feelings of envy.

Conclusion

While the feeling of envy may arise from time to time, we don’t have to respond to it counterproductively or try to repress it. Even though it is difficult, but it is always possible to prevent yourself from being consumed by it and you can even try and harness it to your advantage. Admitting that you are envious is not easy, but admitting it to yourself allows you to change your priorities so that you can redefine what is important to you and also helps you find other areas where you can excel. Be honest with yourself when you encounter feelings of envy within yourself and respond to them constructively by using the above strategies. Get interested in creating an environment that boosts productivity and work on your aspirations and work to improve yourself.

Why self-control is the secret of success

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu

When it comes to achieving our big goals, whether it’s at work, in bettering health, in managing finances, or even pursuing an unlikely dream, we sometimes find them elusive for one reason or another. These challenging goals test our resolve and stretch our comfort zone. When you prepare for a presentation rather binge on a weekend, save money rather than spend it, or eat broccoli rather than candy, what you are really doing is ensuring that future you will be better off. But to make this happen or achieving your other big goals is easier said than done. It requires right motivation, self-control, and a great deal of effort or will power to achieve them. Like, to accomplish a goal of losing weight, following a low-fat diet and regular exercise is the best way, but how do we ‘just do’ what we know is best? to eat healthy and to stick with an exercise program, you need to have strong self-control. And especially, when it comes to avoiding temptations, you require focused effort to get consistent results.

We all have this perfect vision of ourselves at some point off into the future once we attain our goals. But getting from where we are today to our desired destination requires consistent self-control, focused effort and strong will. We search for shortcuts, techniques, methods, and easy ways to motivate ourselves to get there. But on the way, we become impatient, impulsive, and give into the desire for immediate gratification, be it impulsive spending, or distracting our attention to games or social media rather than learning or hoaning skills we need, or giving into momentary eating at a cost to our well-being. This results in impatience and we get biased towards pleasure in the moment. The result is that most of us fail to stick with our daily goals by giving into desires for short-term pleasure.

Most of the times, we don’t feel the effects of our decisions immediately. What you choose to eat and how you choose to invest or spend your free time. These decisions often have different gains or losses in long-run. Eating that extra piece of cake might feel great in the moment but will result in weight gain later. Even though our minds come equipped with necessary tools to succeed, we foresake them and face problems when it comes ṭo delaying gratification, developing strong self-control, and cultivating perseverance. So how would you choose between working on your goals or giving into your immediate gratifications? The ability ṭo control your impulses matter in life. Whether it is studying, practicing, saving, exercising, or persevering in your goals, a willingness to sacrifice in the moment to gain greater rewards in the future can make all the difference.

Why you cannot rely only on your will power?

Most of the times, the value derived from achieving your desirable goal is mostly far off into the future that working on this goal just doesn’t bring you as much pleasure as spending time on other things that give you instant gratification. All the things that bring you instant pleasure makes you struggle to resist leaving you feeling conflicted between the big goal you want to achieve and these small pleasures you so desperately want to indulge in. The choice lies with you to choose either to move down the path of instant gratification or to choose to resist and focus on your goal. Resisting seems to be a rational choice, so you choose to muster up the will power needed to overcome your pleasurable urges in preference of your long-term rewards.

But relying only on your willpower doesn’t take you far as you only have one reserve of it, if you don’t agree, pick up an object and hold it up in the air. Now keep holding it there-forever, ofcourse you can’t do it. And yet, most of us try to do the same with willpower – keep exerting forever. Focusing on your work drains your will power, as does resisting the urge to eat junk food, as does making yourself get out of bed in the morning when you want to sleep. Each time you tap into your will power reserves for difficult tasks, or to maintain healthy habits, you end up depleting your will power reserves. And the more difficult the goal, the faster the rate it gets depleted.

Also using will power will help you only in the short-term as it fails to deal with the source of the problem. Most of the times, we also use techniques such as reason, distraction to keep ourselves from reaching back to what is tempting us to overcome cravings for immediate pleasure. Such habits can help you delay gratification without stress but in limited ways. And when your desires and values are in conflict, you will eventually get caught up on these temptations. So, instead of using willpower as the only source of fuel, it would be better off learning the art of self-control and applying it to goal achievement in a focused way. In an age of instant gratification, self-control seems to be an unusual and undervalued quality, but it is an important one to strive for to achieve your long-term goals.

So, what exactly is self-control?

Self-control is the ability to subdue or resist your impulsive urges, emotions, and behaviours for immediate gratification in order to achieve your long-term goals. Self-control is different from grit where grit is the ability to pursue long-term goals over years, self-control is the ability to resist temptation in the moment. It is the ability to say ‘no’ to yourself in tempting and challenging circumstances and also is the ability to know the difference between a need and a want. Self-control comes from a rational understanding of the consequences of your behavior so that you can sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain.

Why you need to have greater self-control?

The famous marshmallow experiment conducted back in 60’s reveals a clear correlation between self-control and the quality of our life. During experiment, kids were offered a choice between one marshmallow immediately or two marshmallows if they waited alone in the room for up to 20 minutes, during which the researcher left the room and returned. Some kids couldn’t resist the temptation and had the single marshmallow, other kids, however, waited for the researcher to come back into the room and received the second marshmallow as a reward to their patience. In the follow up studies, they found that the kids who were able to wait longer for the bigger rewards fared better in their lives. Those who couldn’t resist had shown more behavioral problems and tended to struggle with stressful situations.

Therefore, by practicing self-control, you can overcome unwanted impulses, thoughts, fears, obsessive, addictive or unsuitable behaviors. You will be better equipped to handle your emotions and can cope with stressful situations far more effectively. It improves your focus and brings a sense of balance into your life. By strengthening your self-control, you can improve your self-esteem and confidence. Lack of willingness to change and improve, or lack of self-discipline and lack of faith in yourself or in your abilities can weaken your ability to develop self-control. Sticking to your goals and to follow through your plans, you need to have strong control on your emotions to resist short-term desire and temptation.

So, How do you develop greater self-control?

Delayed gratification or self-control is a skill better learned as children, but for those of us who did not receive this form of guidance, it can be still learnt and can be improved with practice and persistence. Here are some ways to enhance your self-control.

1. Gain clarity and set specific goals that you want to control. Set concrete and specific goals like in which areas of your life you would like to enforce more self-control. For example, what goal do you have and what is your intent for accomplishing it? is it regarding health or time management ? would you like to spend less time on your distractions so you can use that time to work or study? or Do you want to follow a healthy diet? You can make an inner commitment by understanding the benefits once you implement those changes and plan ahead on how to go about achieving those changes. Think of how you are going to adapt in case things don’t workout as expected. Gaining clarity keeps you disciplined and focused.

2. Increase the value of your purposeful tasks. Being purposeful in your tasks makes your life more meaningful and significant and you will be driven intrinsically to give it your best. Since such purposeful action has an intrinsic reward tied to it, you see immediate benefit in taking that action. You will be also motivated by the long-term rewards that will result in future if your tasks remain purposeful. All temptations and distractions come with immediate gratification and draw you away from tasks that have no immediate reward attached with it. So, our minds have a tendency of discounting the value of future rewards. So by keeping your tasks more purposeful and meaningful, you can over-ride momentary impulses and can reduce the habit of discounting the value of future.

3. Find the balance. Having self-control is not about total abstinence. It is more to do with finding the right balance. Denying yourself or suppressing what you need is as bad as over-indulging. You can do so by asking yourself these questions. Do you often over-indulge in things you like? As soon as you get something, are you looking for the next? If you want something in large quantities, isn’t it going to affect your health or well-being? How far would you go to get what you want? Do you enjoy it enough to make it worthwhile or simply move on to wanting some more of it or something else? By knowing the difference between your need and want, you can strive for balance.

4. Use your emotions to achieve a challenging goal. Cognitive strategies such as will power, distraction, reasoning and the like do work at times, but they are not optimal. Using these mechanisms to suppress your desires for immediate satisfaction can work, but it gets stressful and requires much effort that can affect your well-being. Instead, using your emotions can be powerful for developing self-control. Emotions such as desire, sadness, or anger push you towards short-term concerns. But if you rely on emotions such as gratitude, compassion, persistence, cooperation or perseverence when temptations arise, you will be able to have a long-term view and these right emotions can nudge your mind to favorable future gains over immediate ones.

5. Gratitude boosts self-control . Feelings of gratitude encourage you to resist and overcome selfish temptations when dealing with others. Gratitude stems from recognising that others have offered us something of value. We feel grateful when we feel others have invested in us, which makes us willing ṭo return the favor in future. Whether you’re paying people back for their investment in you with money, time or effort, gratitude nudges you to sacrifice your own gains in the moment to build better relationships for the long term. Gratitude not only builds self-control but also in helping others you also help yourselves down the line.

6. Practice compassion. Like gratitude, compassion motivates you to care for about others. It starts a virtuous cycle by encouraging people to take that first step to sacrifice time, money or some other resource to benefit another even if other is their own future self. Care and compassion towards others and towards your future self drives your willingness to sacrifice in the moment and produces an effortless self-control. It decreases the value we attach to objects and events that offer immediate gratification and this makes it easier to persevere in ways that pay off in future.

7. Meditate regularly. Reflect on thoughts and beliefs that push you to behave in an uncontrolled manner. Practice forgiving and empathizing with yourself for failures as opposed to criticizing yourself. Set some affirmations to act with self-restraint and self-control. Even taking a little as ten minutes a day to focus on your breathing can improve your ability to resist disruptive impulses. By recognising your self-talk and reflecting on past-failures and writing your internal dialogue makes you less vulnerable to impulsive actions.

“Meditation and mindfulness training are essentially exercises in self-control. From controlling the focal point of one’s attention… to a controlled awareness of whatever is going on internally or externally at that particular moment”

To conclude,

Mastering self-control in various situations in your day to day activities takes consistent practice in small ways. It is important to gradually increase your ability to resist larger temptations over time.

The following questions can help you assess your self-control. What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to having self-control and what can you do to overcome it? Can you recall a time you demonstrated strong self-control? Can you recall a time you gave into your temptations or instant gratifications? How much self-control do you have when it comes to your diet or exercise? Does your spending and buying reflect self-restraint? What habits would you like ṭo change to strengthen your self-control?

Recognise the areas where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving into those impulses, use the above strategies to work your way up to resist them and strengthen your resolve. Also it is important to remember that to resist immediate gratification, do not ignore or suppress certain emotions. Find ways to embrace gratitude, perseverence, compassion, forgiving and empathizing with your future self. The more self-control you exercise, the more freedom you experience from the irrational impulses that could take you away from your goals.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/04/18/how-to-build-lasting-motivation/

https://sscascades.org/2018/05/31/transcend-your-negative-habitual-patterns/

How to be an effective listener

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”– Dalai Lama

Being a good listener is one of the most important life-skill we all can have. In today’s fast paced and high-tech world, communication has become an important means of achieving our goals and objectives. Yet we devote very less time when it comes to listening to one another. When was the last time, you listened to what the other person is saying without any distraction? We often have a tendency to focus more on our words rather than others’ words. In a hurry to get our message across, we often neglect the important part of communication, which is listening, be it while listening to our peers, coworkers, friends or family members. If you fail to understand what is being expressed to you whether at work, or home or school, you will also fail in providing a meaningful response.

According to an ancient Chinese Proverb ‘To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well.’ Your true potential is always is directly linked to the quality of your listening skills. In this age of instant communication we are in a hurry to communicate what’s in our mind or focus more on replying than in good listening. We fail to realise, a lot can also be learned by means of listening from others in our day to day conversations.

We often confuse the physical act of hearing with listening. The basic difference being hearing is through ears, but listening is through mind. Hearing only involves perceiving sounds. On the contrary, listening is receiving the information, paying full attention to the words and sentences and understanding them. There is lot of importance given to ‘problem solving’, ‘goal setting’ and other skills to improve our potential or productivity, but very rarely we hear about the importance of active listening and how learning to master this art can improve our overall performance.

Are you a poor listener?

According to a research, we spend much of our waking hours communicating, and more than half is spent listening. Although listening is our primary activity, most of us are poor listeners. Studies show that we are able to comprehend and retain only one-quarter of what was said in about a ten-minute talk. This is mostly because many of us are either distracted by our own thought process or we get self-justifying or busy rehearsing our response that we miss out on what is being said. Sometimes, we tend to shut ourselves to listening when we disagree with the person’s views. Also because our listening speed is faster than the other person’s speaking speed, there is a void which we fill with our thoughts or perceptions. Not able to listen properly leads to arguments, conflicts, and various other challenges in your personal or professional lives. At workplaces, it leads to more errors and wastage of time. In personal life, it may lead to misunderstandings affecting your relationships.

Why listening is more important than speaking?

Effective listening involves ability to concentrate, understand, respond and then retain what is being said. How well we listen has a significant influence on our interpersonal relationships and work effectiveness. Developing good listening skills makes you less anxious, mindful and more self-aware. A great learner is often not the speaker, but the listener. Good listening improves your communication and interpersonal skills at workplaces where it helps you to fully concentrate and engage in a discussion. You will be able to grasp the purpose of your communication so as to put forth your ideas and objectives with more clarity. It helps you provide valuable feedback, to resolve conflicts and eliminate misunderstandings.

Great leaders are people who are intuitive listeners. They recognise that knowledge is gained by listening and not by talking. Good listeners are often perceived as people leaders as they acknowledge and listen to people’s issues and this makes them feel valued. They earn the trust and respect of people by listening, understanding and being supportive of them. By actively engaging yourself in listening to others’ concerns or issues helps you develop leadership quality where you can work efficiently towards coming up with better solutions to solve their problems. Being a good listener improves mutual understanding in your personal, professional or business relationships

What does it take to be a good listener?

Self-awareness is the key to become an effective listener. To be able to sincerely listen to others is not an easy task, it requires persistence, effort and should be able to set aside your views to listen to the other person without being judgmental and by being open minded. It is a mindset which you learn from people by hearing what they have to say by being genuinely curious and interested.

Listening is a dynamic process that involves receiving , understanding, retaining, evaluating and responding. All of these stages happen naturally in a short time during conversation. Here are some tips to improve each of these areas.

Receiving and absorbing the information is the first stage in listening process. Here are some tips to pay attention while receiving the information.

Avoid distractions. Put away your digital distractions, when you are engaged in a conversation. Try to maintain your eye contact with the speaker by keeping aside papers, books, or phones or any other gadgets. Mentally screen out distractions like background noise or activity. No matter how open-minded we can be , we all carry emotional baggage that distracts our listening ability. Words, phrases, tone, or person’s appearance can shut down our receptivity by triggering knee-jerk reactions. Practice identifying and overcoming the knee-jerk reflexes while listening. Each time your mind starts to wander, refocus your attention to what’s being said or to what you are listening rather than focusing on what you are going to say.

Pay attention to non-verbal cues. If you only hear the words someone is saying, you may miss the important meaning being conveyed. Some people don’t overtly verbalise their disagreements but say as much with their actions, body language or physical gestures as they do with their verbal communication. Facial expression, tone if voice, eye contact, and posture all matter. Practice listening between the lines. For instance, someone who tells you that he like your idea while slouching and with his arms crossed against his chest, is actually saying two different things. Paying attention to these cues provides more clarity on the speaker’s emotional state and you can listen to something that they are communicating with their non-verbals.

Avoid interrupting. It is rude to interrupt but most often we model the opposite and tend to overlook our loud, aggressive behaviour. We tend to finish others’ sentences because we cannot slow our mental pace to listen effectively. Interrupting says that your opinion is of more importance than others’ or might imply that what you are saying is more accurate or relevant. It also might mean you don’t have time to listen or don’t really care about what’s being said. A conversation is not a contest which you are going to win. You can’t listen and talk at the same time. So, resist the urge to interrupt and let the other person say what he or she wants to say. When listening to someone talk about a problem or a difficulty, we tend to immediately suggest solutions using our own perspective to make him or her move in the direction we think is good. In most such cases, we respond to our needs rather than the needs of the other person. May be the person just wants to talk or share. Don’t impose your solutions. Before advising, ask whether they like to hear your suggestions or solutions.

Be empathetic. Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her words can be comforting. Giving undivided attention by being compassionate helps you to be an effective listener. Put yourself in their shoes and listen and allow them to express their feelings and thoughts

“The most basic of all human needs is to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

Avoid being judgmental or biased. Listen without judging or mentally criticising what is being said and without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Learn to separate fact from opinion. Don’t listen with an intent to have your opinions validated, but listen with an intent to learn something new. Many times we don’t pay much attention to those against whom we are biased or prejudiced. Don’t just listen to those who agree with you, but actively seek out different perspectives and listen to even those who confront and challenge you. Effective listening requires an open mind, you need to be open to new ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities. Even when you have strong views, suspend your judgment, hold your criticism, and avoid arguing or selling your point right away.

Understanding is the next stage in listening process. After you have received the information, you begin to process its meaning and gain more clarity, or asking questions or rephrasing parts of the message you heard to understand the key points.

Asking questions. Ask questions only to ensure understanding or about things that unclear. Asking open-ended questions provides the other person an opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts. For instance asking ‘how would you?’ rather than ‘can you?’ encourages them to expand their ideas. Restating key points as the conversation proceeds confirms that you understood their point of view and also confirms that two of you are on the same page. Sometimes your questions might lead the speaker astray, take responsibility and work your way back to the conversation. Not only asking questions provides clarity but also encourages to reflect on a thoughtful response and provides a different perspective furthering more communication. Paraphrasing the content of the message every now and then indicates that you understood the topic and improves your awareness within the conversation.

Remembering the key elements spoken is possible only by staying engaged or connected to what’s being said in a conversation. While listening for long stretches, concentrate on and remember key concepts or phrases. Make a mental model of what’s being communicated or arrange the small details or concepts into a central theme to easily grasp the incoming information.

Evaluating You can evaluate the information and prepare your response in this stage. Remember that while evaluating, you are still a listener and not a speaker. Relate to the main idea and sort the information based on facts or opinions. Look for any prejudices or biases. You can interpret as to whether any portions of the message, if any were exaggerated or what was their intent and accordingly you can come up with a response.

Responding is still a part of the listening process. After receiving, understanding, and evaluating of the listening process, you will be better prepared to address the important points with proper awareness of the context and with clear understanding of the speaker’s perspective. While responding, be clear of what part of the message you are addressing instead of repeating or completing their sentences. You can either share about a similar experience you had or you can introduce your ideas, suggestions or thoughts.

To conclude,

What do you do in a conversation? Are you more inclined to speak or listen? When you are listening, do you stay focused or does your mind wander? Do you ask questions with an intent to understand ? Can you keep yourself from interrupting or defending or saying anything for a while? Do you encourage others to express themselves or share their opinions freely?

In order to first speak, one must learn to listen. It is when you start to listen, you discover new possibilities. Each of the above stages take place naturally during our daily conversations in very short time. Even though listening is a simple process, it may take a while to become an effective listener, like any other skill, it takes time, patience and practice. Next time when you find yourself engaging in a conversation, use the above tips to improve your listening process and make yourself more conscious and aware of your moments in the conversation.