Turn your adversity into opportunity

Success is not to be measured by what one accomplished in life, success is to be measured by what one overcomes while trying to succeed.” – Booker. T. Washington

How do you respond to adversity or when things don’t go to plan? Do you become aggressive or do you disconnect from life and hide? We all experience difficult times in our work and personal lives often through situations or circumstances outside our control and struggle with some obstacles and hardships. But while some people endure hardships and overcome the adversity, some cannot. They might give up when faced with similar circumstances. How you deal with difficult circumstances and obstacles life throws your way depends on your patience and perseverance. You can either let these obstacles bring you down and take you into a downward spiral or you can use them to motivate and lift you up. The key difference is how you perceive and respond to adversity or obstacles you face. If you consider them as bad and try to avoid, you end up closing your possibilities and avoid taking risks. On the other hand if you take them merely as challenges filled with opportunities to endure, learn and grow, you can profit from them both physically and emotionally. The ability to persevere such situations is the only difference between a successful outcome and a failed outcome.

When it comes to accomplishing your goals, you might face short-term failures along the way, or sometimes you may struggle as it might take longer than you expect. Even while making some change in your life like creating new habits, developing new skills or learning new concepts, short-term failure or challenges or difficulties can drain your motivation. They even might make you want to quit before you’ve put in enough time and effort to reach your goal. And how you respond to such failures, setbacks or difficulties when pursuing your goals depends primarily on your mindset and willingness to persevere. What ultimately makes you successful is your choice to persevere and overcome adversity or hardships. In the end, it is perseverance that translates into success.

So, What is Perseverance?

It is defined as your inner drive to persist steadfastly in pursuit of an undertaking, task, or goal even if hindered by difficulty, setbacks, obstacles or discouragement. It is continuance in a course of action in spite of adversity or opposition and is a necessary skill to overcome setbacks or failures. Perseverance enables us to take risks, learn from our failures, and forge ahead with new and better information.

It requires regular practice to develop the quality of perseverance. Only with strong determination can one achieve his/ her goal by perseverance.

Why is it important to practice perseverance?

Most often, people who accomplish great things no matter what field they are in, understand that failure or an obstacle is not a stumbling block but a stepping stone. They are the ones who have succeeded enduring hardships, challenges, or failures at some point in their life. Should you quit when you face obstacles or adversity? Should you quit if you are not able to achieve goals fast enough? Should you quit in case of disappointment or self-doubt?

The answer to above questions depends upon how much you are willing to and can persevere in times such as these and how hard are you willing to work towards overcoming such situations. And how much you can overcome further depends upon the foundations you base your life on. Those who built solid foundations as a base for their lives develop the persistence necessary to overcome adversity or setbacks. Take for instance, sumo wrestling, an ordinary person would have absolutely no chance of winning against a professional sumo wrestler. This is because of the gap in skills they possess. Professional sumo wrestlers practice in the ring everyday so they become strong, solidity and speed. When faced with someone like this, ordinary person would not be able to exert enough strength and naturally defeated. The same can be said of encountering troubles in life. By practising perseverance, you can be better prepared to face such situations in your personal and professional pursuits.

Strengthening your foundation by building on your internal resources like emotional and strength, resilience, courage and patience can prepare you mentally for any possibility and you can remain in control of your emotions and actions without creating much friction. And you can form a clear perspective to persevere. Through her research, Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit: The power of Passion and Perseverance, has identified four psychological assets that most perseverant possess.

Passionis important be genuinely interested in what you are doing so that you are intrinsically motivated to keep going even when things don’t work out the way you initially thought.

PracticeThe next step is developing the discipline to practice your passion. Your intentional actions help you develop productive habits that can support you to get better in case you facing obstacles or failure.

PurposeDeveloping a greater purpose where your work or actions or outcomes are beneficial to others and not limited to personal gratification can help you overcome short-term failures and struggles.

HopeHope or optimism is what lets you challenge yourself when things get tough so that you get back up and keep moving forward. You can cultivate emotional strength and courage to persevere in the hope that you will overcome.

How to persevere through adversity

Adversity causes some men to break, and others to break records.”- William Arthur Ward

Adversity often provides us with a learning opportunity that can help us in improving our true potential. However in order to turn adversity into an opportunity for growth, you must first be able to adapt yourself well to life-changing situations. And the strength to persevere through them often comes from your internal attributes and learnt skills like acceptance, resilience, and being self-aware. Here are some ways to strengthen your resolve to persevere and turn adversity into opportunity to grow.

Flip your thinking

Just think about how you see the situation and the story you are telling yourself. The attitude you bring to the situation is reflected in the thoughts you allow yourself to dwell upon consistently while facing adversity. These thoughts manifest in internal dialogue that manufacture your emotional experiences that either empower or weaken your resolve.

If you are thinking of the setback as a negative experience, then reflect on the story you are making up about the circumstances. If it is empowering then you will be more focused on solution that help you move forward. But if it is based on blame, excuses and complaining, then you fall victim to your negativity bias where you close yourself to positive alternatives. Stay self-aware if your thoughts and emotions you bring forth into the situation. Stay objective and try to change your narrative to more empowering and meaningful that can help you persevere through the obstacles.

Questions to reflect: Am I being self-aware of my thoughts and emotions? What story am I telling myself? Is it empowering? What is the problem here? What can I learn from this experience? What can be done to improve the situation? How can I move forward in a better way?

Let go of your expectations

Fully accept your present situation by letting go of expectations you are holding on to. Challenges will come while pursuing your dreams, vision and goals. When dealing with bigger goals, acknowledge that things don’t always go according to your expectations. Holding onto your expectations makes you confined to fixed mindset and will not help you effectively deal with the situation you are in.

Expectations not only create resistance to alternative perspectives but also create internal conflict. Instead of holding on to your expectations of a particular outcome, accept the fact that you are experiencing an obstacle and try to see things more rationally. Clinging on emotionally to a particular outcome or the way you want things to turn out may not let you see the things clearly. Acknowledge that there are certain things beyond your control and choose to respond to them in positive ways.

Questions to reflect: Am I holding onto realistic and helpful expectations? Am I being attached to a specific outcome? Are my expectations flexible? Are there other alternatives to consider? Am I reasonable in my expectations of the outcome I wanted? Which alternative perspectives can help me in overcoming this situation?

Take one step at a time

Adversity and setbacks can often become overwhelming or knock you off balance. Many of us react to such unexpected circumstances hastily or rather unprepared and cannot take actions that will help you better the situation. This will result in making other mistakes and eventually end up regretting. The best way to persevere in the face of obstacles is to take a pause, assess and identify the problem. Break down the problem into smaller steps.

This helps improve focus which subsequently allows you to gain more clarity about the situation and about possible options to solve. Think of why they arose in the first place. Although not every obstacle is a result or a consequence, a personal reflection always helps to understand your bigger aim or sense of purpose and can come up with solutions. This way, you can display resolve against the odds and lay down the action steps you can take to help solve the problem.

Questions to reflect: How could I present this situation in the form of a question? Is there some solution that I am undermining or not considering? What process must I follow in order to solve this ? What part should I tackle first? How will I tackle this part of the problem? What is the first action step I must take?

Build your external resources

Cultivate a supportive network of friends and family. When you feel overwhelmed and anxious, just talking through helps. Often you might discover a friend who has had a similar experience and can help guide you through the difficult time. Nurture supportive relationships. Psychologists call this social support. According to their studies, social support enhances your physical and emotional health. A mind open to communication will think a way out of difficult situations.

Supportive relationships shield you from the negative effects of stress. Surround yourself with those people on whom you can rely, talk to, open and share your feelings. It can also serve as an opportunity to share ideas and get to know alternative perspectives or solutions. Don’t compare yourself with others. Everyone’s journey is different. Instead be inspired by others to persevere when you face criticism and opposition.

Questions to reflect: Am I building supportive relationships? Am I aware of any friend or coworker who endured such hardships? Whom can I rely on to persevere in the face of any obstacles or difficult situations? Am I being supportive of other people in their struggles when they go through similar challenges and hardships?

To conclude,

Think about a goal or a dream you are currently working towards. What obstacles stand in your way that might take you off-course? How are you prepared to handle those and overcome? How do you respond to obstacles or challenges? How do you perceive or what story you tell yourself? What is your willingness to persevere? How strongly you believe in the purpose of your goals ?

There is no such thing as success without failure or obstacles. The question is not about whether or not you will encounter challenges but when obstacles arise, you mustn’t quit or change directions and must be prepared to endure and persevere through them. Turn them into an opportunity with the help of above strategies and questions to mentally prepare for such moments and to build momentum you need to move through them successfully.

If your focus is on succeeding in life, then you also should learn how to respond to adversity or failures or obstacles or hardships. Regardless of your situation, you need to develop these essential skills to put forth the necessary effort and move forward after setbacks. Set yourself a long-term goal, connect deeply with its purpose, take action towards that goal and allow that to pull you through.

Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better.” – Jim Rohn

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.

Are you living with integrity?

Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gains.”

Many of us make choices and decisions in our day to day life that define who we are and what we believe in. All of us face integrity-based choices on a regular basis. Most often, the choices we have to make may seem insignificant, but even the smallest choice or action we take has an impact on our reputation. And it always takes courage to do the right thing at all times and in all circumstances whether or not anyone is watching. But many stay disconnected from their true inner core and tend to carry on with social persona merely to seek acknowledgment, appreciation and acceptance. “The end justifies the means” has become a common school of thought in today’s world and many tend to either exaggerate, over-promise, or underdeliver in a desperation to meet their expectations or goals. They tend to justify their act of dishonesty by telling themselves a valid reason as to why the end result justified their lack of integrity.

Acting without the constraints of morality may provide instant gratification in the moment but is always temporary and the success with such actions comes with far reaching consequences and at the price of your trustworthiness. Just as honesty is essential to develop trust in any healthy personal or professional relation, so is integrity to become trustworthy. If you can’t trust someone in all areas, you can’t trust them in any. Integrity is a prerequisite for credibility and involves an inner sense of wholeness which results in being consistently honest and morally upright. Integrity is important in all aspects of life, professional, personal, or social.:

What is integrity?

Integrity is the quality of adhering to moral and ethical principles and is a state of being whole and complete or undivided. It comes with an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of your actions, words, decisions, measures, expectations, methods and outcomes. Integrity encompasses truthfulness, credibility and sincerity. Learning to live with integrity requires developing self-awareness, adhering to strict moral values and communicating truthfully to others regardless of the complexity of situation or the possibility of negative consequences.

Lack of integrity, for instance, saying you will do something and not doing it or telling a lie or leading someone to believe that they can trust you and betraying them, or hiding things about yourself so that the aspect of you that other people see is not the real you or changing your opinion in order to bend to other’s opinion shows inconsistency between your words and actions. Lack of integrity is not adhering to your conscience and not living in a state of wholeness. For instance, when someone puts pressure on your authenticity, then deciding to change your stance so others will see you as a good person demonstrates your lack of integrity. To give false impression or telling lie in a way to avoid shame of being different or for the fear of being ridiculed also takes you out of integrity.

Integrity is important to achieve your goals

Integrity is one of the most important and valuable character trait to build in order to be successful in your endeavours as it can help you to build trust, be honest and consistent in your efforts and in decision-making. Integrity includes two components that go beyond just doing the right thing. The first is honesty to adhere to moral and ethical principles. If we are honest with ourselves we know intrinsically what the right thing is without having to look to laws, rules or some code of ethics. Being honest with ourselves and others makes us authentic to build trust. And the second is consistency to live in alignment with your values, actions and words. Being consistent enables others to rely on their expectations of your future behaviours based on your past commitments or actions.

We often fail to stay committed to our goals and resolutions due to lack of integrity that is, we simply don’t keep our word to ourselves. We make promises to ourselves and then break them often for reasons we don’t even understand. How good are we to our expectations depends to a larger extent on our integrity. When you are in integrity, you bring the same you regardless of the circumstance and don’t leave parts of yourself behind thereby removing self-doubt and show consistency in your commitments. You cannot commit to your goals if you agree to things but never seem to be able to show up for your agreements, or when you use your words destructively or when you say things you don’t really mean. Such actions often take you out of integrity. Personal power to achieve your goals and objectives comes from being in integrity with yourself and others.

principles or values are prerequisites for personal growth. Maintaining moral high ground and honesty in your dealings with coworkers, friends, peers, superiors or team members helps you own your sphere of influence and can gain their trust as you become dependable and hold yourself accountable for your actions, decisions or choices. This can help you to build healthy relations and impacts your success positively.

“The most important persuasion tool in your entire arsenal is your integrity.”– Zig Ziglar

How to practice living with integrity?

Everyone makes mistakes, so being a person of integrity does not mean you haven’t committed a moral violation, it means having the strength of character to learn from those and seek continual self-improvement. It is an important character trait that can be strengthened and developed in our daily life. Here are some strategies to enhance and live in integrity.

Identify your core values. Your personal values are a central part of who you are and who you want to be. They are often shaped by your formative experiences, but your values may change as you grow and adopt to new stages of life. Assess the degree to which you adhere to them and focus on what matters most to you. To live with integrity is to align your behaviours and actions with your core values. Define what’s truly important to you and make sure they fit with your vision of yourself. Which values are important to you ? Do your values make you feel good about yourself? Are you proud of your values? Would you be comfortable and proud to tell your values to people you respect and admire? Do these values support your choice even if it isn’t popular? Answering these questions can help you in determining your values. By becoming aware of your values, you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation and maintain your sense of integrity.

Align your choices with your core values and do not drift or fall into the easy or popular path while making important career choices, work or business agreements or personal decisions. Consider all the options and consequences and the impact of your decision on yourself and others. How does your decision align with your personal values? How would it differ from a decision you would make if no one found out about your choice? If you make a choice right now, will it hold good in the long-term? A good way to ensure that you are living a life of integrity is to assess where you are now and where you want to be in future in terms of your personal integrity. Analyse every choice you make. Keep in mind that in times of fear, stress or chaos, the temptation is even greater to make a wrong choice. Integrity isn’t about living by your values when it is convenient, they are values that you should live by all the time which include both big and small choices. By aligning with your values all the time, you can approach decision-making with more clarity and confidence.

Set a moral code for yourself and others. Choose a set of rules, morals or principles that you believe will lead you to righteous and satisfying life based on what your values are. Be willing to update your code as you adjust your sense of right and wrong and your moral reasoning. Most of the times how we think about right or wrong changes as we gain more experience. Whether it is leading a group of people or managing a business, parenting children, leading with integrity requires outlining a standard of behaviour by which others abide. Adhere at all times to the behavioural standard you have established for them.

Surround yourself with morally upright people. Avoid spending your time in environments that can drag you down morally. If people around you violate your sense of integrity, consider removing yourself from that environment. Develop friendships and work relationships with others who demonstrate integrity and who support your decisions. If you surround yourself with dishonest or by those who cut corners to get ahead, then you will find yourself following a pattern of enduring and adopting their behaviour. Do not give into others who try to get you to do things which are not in alignment with your values in favour of an easy gain. Remind yourself that you alone have to live with consequences of your behaviour.

Create an atmosphere of open communication

Communicate to others with authenticity. Be open with others regarding issues that affect them. Stop speaking impulsively or sugarcoating your response. Be assertive to put your point of view with authenticity and without being aggressive. Keeping secrets or hiding important information can lead to an environment of mistrust. Listen attentively to others to lead them with integrity. Acknowledge others’ contributions and practice tolerance for different perspectives. Be transparent in your interactions with others so as to avoid mistrust. If you are running into obstacles then communicate to the person and take responsibility for your words and actions.

Be honest in keeping your promises

For some people, overpromising, underdelivering, or apologising for running late, for being behind schedule on their work or project, or forgetting to do the thing they said they would becomes a regular thing. Stop and reflect before you say ‘yes’ to commitments. Practice saying ‘no’ to things you know you will have difficulty completing. If you break a promise, apologise, but don’t let that become a habit. Keep your appointments personally and professionally. Be honest in owning up to your mistake and take responsibility for your action and do whatever it takes to right the situation. If you give your word that something will be taken care of, do it. Follow through your promises and commitments. Reflect on what circumstances, relationships and patterns are leading you up to broken commitments to identify where you are most frequently breaking promises with yourself and others.

Live with mindfulness

When you live with mindfulness, you are conscious of the way you think, speak and behave every day and you work towards carrying out those activities in a more meaningful way. Meditating through mindful breathing can help you gain a deeper awareness of your thoughts and actions. You cannot live a life of integrity without being mindful of and concerned for others. A lack of empathy can result in poor judgment, act of selfishness and lead to unhappy relationships. Show compassion and empathy towards others. Reflect on how to live and make decisions in a way that is reflective of your values and beliefs by contemplating on which actions of yours are in accordance with your conscience? Is there consistency between what you are thinking and what you are doing? Are your thoughts and practices are same? and so on.

To conclude,

Are you living your life with integrity?

What are your core values? What standards of behaviour are really important to you? Do you have a habit of breaking your promises? Are you two-faced? What specific values you admire about other people, Is the fact that they are generous or honest? Are you aware of your authentic self? Do you identify yourself with those values? Would you still live by those values even if they put you at a complete disadvantage?How honest are you in your behaviours, actions, and words? Are your choices and decisions aligned with your core values in all situations? Answering these questions can put you in the perspective of whether or not you are mindful of integrity in your choices and decisions.

Acting in accordance with your integrity requires aligning all aspects of yourself with what is right and to be honest and authentic with yourself. Living with Integrity is not forcing yourself or trying to be better or harder and following yet another should. It is more about authenticity, self-honesty and a steadfast adherence to a strict moral code and being whole and undivided. Appreciate yourself when you act with integrity and acknowledge when you don’t. Use the above strategies to correct course when required. Be persistent and patient with yourself and others while practising integrity.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/05/19/are-you-being-self-aware/

https://sscascades.org/2019/06/09/how-to-be-a-good-listener/

How to challenge the Status Quo

“If you focus on results, you will never get change.If you focus on change, you will get results.” ― Jack Dixon

A good way to predict the direction of our life is to measure how much of our time we’re actually trying to enhance and improve it. Most of us claim that we want better life or want things to change. It is easier to wish than to face change and uncertainty. Sometimes, we imagine that when we make a change, the choice we select should be easy to accomplish. So we wait until that magical state arrives by expending a lot of mental energy only wishing, expecting, and worrying. In other words, much of our time is spent in just maintaining the Status Quo rather than working constructively in creating the change we desire to enhance our personal or professional life.

Many times people end up on not taking action that will take them to the next level and prefer staying with the Status Quo, that is “the way things are”, no matter how flawed that may be. This way, they often find themselves stuck in mediocrity trap that keeps them in an automatic loop of routine. This makes them complacent as they get used to the ‘norm’ and are not desperate enough to change. There are others who want to pursue a goal, but don’t feel it can be achieved. They want to change, but are afraid of failure. Some have clear objectives to achieve but unhappy in place where they are. They want their environment to change without them having to do anything about it. So they just are stuck to their status quo instead of finding ways to make fulfilling changes.

In today’s world, if you want to compete or stay ahead or want to create sustainable growth for yourself or for your organisation or business, you must constantly think about how you can adapt and change. But one of the biggest barrier to change is our Status Quo thinking. We resort to thinking “its how we’ve always done it..” or “ that’s just how we do things here.” and so on. we often like to doing the things in same way or keep things as they are and don’t want to shake things up or change.

So, What is Status Quo?

Status Quo is a Latin phrase that means “state in which”, the state in which your current outcomes or results happen or your current state of things. It is about doing what is comfortable and thinking inside the existing box. As creatures of habit, we always tend to move toward the familiar, known, and believe it into be safer than what is new and different. This creates a Status Quo bias or our preference for familiarity. Because of this, it is harder to accept change and we usually prefer the easier option of keeping things as they are as it takes less mental effort.

Downside of maintaining Status Quo

To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are or being complacent with how things are. Sometimes things are done a certain way because it’s the best practice. Other times we do things without a thought to process improvement. Sticking to status quo in your present circumstance, habits, behaviour, or efficiency or your skill or how things are in your personal and professional life not only keeps you stuck, stagnant but also hinders your growth and progress. We get so comfortable and safe thinking inside the existing box that it makes us resistant towards change or to think outside the box or to take risks or to challenge ourselves or to move out of our comfort zone. We see something new as inherently risky while something familiar as safe.

Change is something every body wants and talks about but cannot make it happen in reality as many of us get stuck in our Status Quo mindset. We get caught up in daily routines and any change seems uncomfortable. We refuse to challenge our status Quo thinking and refuse to adopt to more positive outlook thereby creating an aversion to change. Adhering to status Quo and giving preference that things stay the same is problematic for your self-growth or professional growth.

For some reason, we find it difficult to challenge the status quo when dealing with peers, friends, superiors or others in our personal and professional life. There is a sense that the act of challenging is inappropriate and may lead to conflict. But it is important to understand that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing as it can lead to insightful learning and change by challenging a problem from different viewpoints.

Why is it important to challenge your status quo?

Challenging Status Quo means that you identify better ways of doing things in order to change for better or to improve yourself or to add value. This not only makes you feel more engaged, meaningful, creative,and content but also increase your productivity, leadership skills and helps in managing things more effectively. And you can find solutions to a problem through different perspectives and can think more creatively or you can set yourself some personal challenges to encourage personal growth.

To become more productive and improve, you need to shift your perspective to challenge what’s become “the norm.” Just because something has worked until now, it doesn’t mean that there’s no need for change or room for improvement. Also, If you don’t challenge your status quo bias and are not ready to address what’s keeping you from making a change to enhance your life or to get yourself out of the mediocrity trap, you really cannot get on the path to create change or growth that you actually desire for.

Trust your idea enough to know that it can challenge the status quo.”

― Arlyn Davich

How to challenge your status quo ?

When you have to challenge how things are, you need to modify behaviours to impact results. Just knowing does not equal change unless you take different actions than those that created your present state of affairs. Only when you really understand the relationship between your inputs and outcomes or state in which your current outcomes are generated by current inputs, you can find your status quo and challenge it successfully. One of the effective way to do so is by asking right questions.

Ask questions

Asking yourself ‘why’ can help you to quickly pinpoint the actions that are generating your current results and you can identify what needs to be changed or improved. By asking yourself what actions can lead to positive change, you can challenge the status quo and focus on finding solutions. At work, be open to new ideas brought in by your team or others. Consider all the variables to implement the idea and explore all avenues to make a positive change. asking questions like is there something that isn’t working? Or why isn’t it working? How can you arrive at a solution? What are the ways to improve? can give you the ability to turn negative outcomes into positive. Asking right questions can give you insights to why you need to challenge the status quo, what resistance you may face and potential strategies to improve.

Here are some more ways to challenge your status quo.

Take risks. We often resort to status quo to avoid risk or uncertainty. If you want real change, you must embrace risk as new normal. Understand the impact of doing nothing is rarely ‘nothing.’ You must learn to create to anticipate unexpected and should learn to perform under pressure and should be able to adapt yourself better to change.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: What is the risk involved in doing the same things or doing the same work or keeping the same habits? What short or long-term risks do your status quo results pose? What is the risk involved if you were to challenge your status quo? What can you do differently to improve yourself?

Identify the emotions behind change. You must identify what fears or emotions may be keeping you from changing. Unhelpful emotions can hold you in a status quo state. Emotions like fear of failure, or unwillingness to move out of your comfort zone or fear of the consequences of an unsuccessful implementation can keep you in Status Quo. Sometimes the root cause may be fear of additional effort required to implement a change, or to invest in time, money or other resources. You need to emotionally commit to the desired change.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo : Which emotions have strong hold on you? Which emotions are holding you back? Which emotions drive you towards change? Are you willing to move out of your comfort zone to challenge yourself?

Take responsibility. We talk about change but we don’t include it in our thinking or actions or decisions. We expect and maintain the status quo and want others to work on existing framework and not challenge them. This happens when we don’t take responsibility for the problem. You must be willing to reach out to others and new ideas. Also sometimes you might not be thinking in the right boxes to recreate growth or it might be uncomfortable for you to think outside the box. By being accountable, you will be able to challenge the status quo of your actions and decisions.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: Are you willing to take responsibility for your ideas or choices or decisions? What needs to be challenged? Is there something that needs to be changed? What can you do differently to improve your status quo?

Be growth seeking. When you lack growth mindset, you cannot break down status quo bias or open to new possibilities to learn and grow. To challenge status quo, you need to think long-term and explore new insights, perspectives and ways to improve things.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: What is your obstacle to growth? What behaviours are causing you negative outcomes? If you want your outcomes to change, which actions or behaviour you need to change? Which new ideas and perspectives you should be open to?

Evaluate your core values. Lack of honest evaluation of your current conditions, values, results and actions keep you in status quo thinking. How you approach change depends on your core beliefs and in how you view learning and improving yourself and other values.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo : What are your core values? Are your core beliefs aligned with desired change? What values are taking you away from moving forward in new and better direction? What values you need to embrace to progress in the direction of change?

Prepare your approach. If you are challenging long-standing attitudes or processes, you cannot just challenge them in a knee-jerk manner. Being passionate about change is admirable, but not able to present your ideas in a positive manner may lead to failure. You might face resistance while challenging status quo, especially in a workplace environment from your coworkers or superiors. Some may resist your efforts and think you are accusing them of doing something wrong. Some may even take changes you proposed personally or perceive them as self-serving, or inappropriate and reject them. In such situations, clearly communicate your intentions as to why you are challenging the status quo.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo : Am I presenting my suggestions in a positive manner? Does the proposed change leads to improvement? What actions can lead to positive change or increase productivity, efficiency or morale right now?

Improve your social environment. Your social environment like friends, family and co-workers play an important role in challenging status quo in progress oriented way. Your social interactions and relationships may hold you back in implementing the changes whether intentionally or unintentionally. You need ensure you have supportive, challenging and mutually beneficial relationships in place to enable you to successfully challenge status quo. Gather right allies to wheel and support you in the cause and change.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: Is your social environment supportive of you? Do the people around you facilitate change you want to make? Are people holding you back in challenging your status quo?

Conclusion

Challenging status quo is not pointing out every little flaw and error or being rebellious. It has got more to do in making a positive or creative contribution that can improve your present situation. It is about bringing change by trying something new be it in your work, or personal habits, or in setting a new routine, or to implement new ideas in your business or workplace.

Measure your goals. Goals are nothing more than desired changes. You are choosing to maintain status quo if you don’t have concrete goals. To create the change you desire, you need to confront what has been simply accepted so far. Identity which areas of your life you are stuck in mediocrity and use the above strategies to challenge your status quo. The more you challenge the status quo, the more progress you will make towards your goals and objectives.

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.