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.

Overcome your impatience

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”– Saadi

We are always taught different life lessons while growing up starting from how to tie our shoelaces to how to be a nice person. We all turn out to be pretty decent human beings. But when it comes to certain virtues like patience, we all seem to be lacking and struggle with. We always grow impatient in situations that we cannot control. Waiting always gets us worked up. Impatience always sets in when waiting in long lines, being put on hold, or interacting with disagreeable people. We also grow impatient on our road to change from bad habits or behaviour or recovering from illness or addictions.

So, What causes impatience?

Impatience is lack of patience,eager desire for relief or change; restlessness and intolerance of anything that thwarts, delays, or hinders. Technology and an increased access to information also has contributed to our impatience. In a world where we can access any information and order what we want within few seconds, patience can be hard to come by. We are so saturated and conditioned to having everything we need right at our fingertips with immediacy that we are no longer used to waiting. Pressure is always on us to attain certain goals, and with that comes the need to get things done in short amount of time. This instantaneous, the rapid, the quick, the get-it-done-right now kind of mindset makes us impatient.

Impatience can also be rooted back to certain underlying beliefs that we have about ourselves and the world around. Impatience can be caused by,

• Subconscious belief that you are not good enough or other self-limiting beliefs about yourself.

• Your inherent unhappiness with yourself and belief that you had to get to somewhere before you could be happy.

• Certain fixation with future on reaching a certain end goal or to achieve bigger visions, and accomplish more goals.

• Feelings of anger and frustration when things do not go as plan or your way.

• A great sense of urgency to get things over with and to move on to the next thing or task.

• Lack of present moment awareness and dwelling on future.

• Thoughts like “why is this slow?” or “what’s next.” would lead you to being impatient.

• When things get delayed or moving at slower pace than you want or the mindset of wanting everything right now.

Your expectations for immediate attention can negatively impact your productivity, patience and well-being. Studies reveal that higher levels of impatience cause major health conditions over time. Sometimes the urge to achieve your goals manifests into impatience causing annoyance at things standing in your way and gives rise to tension and fear-based emotions. Even though the negative effects of impatience cannot be observed immediately, but they slowly compound over time. It is only when you learn to be more patient that you can know the difference.

What is patience?

Patience is the capability to accept or tolerate delay or difficulties without getting angry or upset. It is a state of endurance under difficult circumstances.

Being patient gives you a feeling of equanimity, a calmness of mind that makes it easier to go through life’s ups and downs.

Why develop patience?

Sometimes the challenges make us vulnerable, possibly afraid, and we have knee-jerk responses to protect ourselves. These responses make an already stressful and unpleasant situation worse. You should learn to make a conscious effort to respond to such situations differently. Patience is the process of turning inwards towards your inner strength. It is strength to stay still with the vulnerable feelings and the restlessness rather than giving into the emotional urge to do something in reaction to what has triggered you.

It is important to develop patience as it increases feelings of happiness as well as reduces stress and anxiety. It also improves productivity because it creates a better and clear state of mind. Here is why you should develop patience.

Persistence

With patience you can be persistent and stay on your goals for the long run. You don’t have to cut corners or do things in hurry, instead you can patiently work things out, do what needs to be done, and make things happen. You can commit to stay with what is right to achieve your goals.

Self-control

To change yourself from bad habits, anger, and frustration, it takes time and if you have the patience, you can wait for yourself to get there. You build self-control to put up with situations that involve difficulties. It develops the capacity to tolerate annoyance, or pain, or irritation.

Clarity

Sometimes you are met with certain obstacles. Such times, you don’t see things clearly because of impatience as it causes the feelings of self-doubt and decreases your confidence. Instead by being patient, you can gain clear vision of why something happened when it did.

Better decision-making.

Impatience makes you end up making poor decisions in order to get you to your desired goal quickly which can affect your health and your happiness. Whereas by not being stressed and anxious about something, you gain time to get clarity and can come to the best possible solution.

Acceptance

Being patient helps you to connect and engage with your feelings or emotions. Your acceptance of how you feel about a given situation and what you can realistically do about it grows. Your acceptance of self help you overcome negative emotions and behaviour.

How to practice patience?

To practice patience, external approaches like enforcing affirmations and regulation of breathing can be helpful. But to create a permanent change, you need to address the root cause by reflecting on your beliefs, thoughts and behaviour.

Here are some strategies to overcome impatience and to practice patience.

Identify impatient thought patterns

Notice when you are feeling rushed and stressed. This may be due to your unreasonable expectations or beliefs of needing everything now. Start by observing your patterns of impatience arising in your thoughts. Identify the triggers for such patterns like being put on hold, facing a long wait, figuring out a solution for a problem. By recognising the impatient mental patterns, you will be better able to accept them and can make a conscious effort to overcome such patterns by responding to them in a different way.

Keep your expectations realistic

Our expectations are often not realistic. For instance, while attempting to learn a new skill, we get impatient by thinking that we should be able to master new skill quickly. Keeping your expectations realistic and knowing them can help you build patience to achieve your desired goals. Understand that not everyone and everything runs on your schedule and other people and situations need not conform to your expectations. Be patient with situations that are not in your control.

Maintain a proper perspective

Practice the habit of maintaining a positive perspective, instead of dwelling on things that are making you impatient. shift your perspective to positive thoughts, affirmations and outcomes. The ability to reframe a situation by looking at it from a different and positive point of view makes any situation more tolerable and it provides you with the needed patience.

Practice slowing down

Because of impatience, you might resort to making poor decisions even though the odds are against your long-term success of achieving your goals. Slowing down can help you in making better decisions that are more likely to give you better results. Practice being mindful in your activities like walking slow, eating mindfully, incorporating a day of rest in your schedule as this can allow you to reflect and you can develop an attitude of gratitude.

Cultivate compassion

Being compassionate helps you to see the circumstance for what it really is, and not how it appears to be or feels. Think of how you can be more compassionate in an impatient situation, or how you can transform the frustration into something useful for someone. This lets you see small things you otherwise would have taken for granted. This way you can focus onto something much more productive or useful for everybody.

Finally, Be mindful. Make conscious choice to pay attention to that which is going on in your field of awareness. Being mindful allows you to respond, not in anger, but instead with patience and it also helps in accepting things as they are. Being aware of your thoughts in the moment, you can remind yourself to be patient.

Conclusion

Patience is an important virtue to cultivate. You can build healthy mind, body, and healthy relationships. You experience less stress by learning to be patient with yourself. Remember that anything worth your while takes time and effort. So, don’t be discouraged or anxious if your progress is slow, remember that change is supposed to take time. Try to build the above mentioned strategies in your daily activities to grow more patient with yourself and with those around you.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Embrace “productive discomfort”

“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

-Roy T. Bennett

We are always drawn to easier way of doing things. Many of us feel safe in our comfort zones. Convenience and comfort has become our default choice and many times it becomes a driver of our decisions. But the problem with convenience is that it makes us intolerant of things that are not within our comfort zone. It is very hard for us to do things that could be good for us like leaving a bad habit or learning a new skill. We fail to do so and tend to avoid taking action as it might involve a certain level of discomfort and unfamiliarity. We constantly try to avoid facing such situations that cause us discomfort which otherwise could fulfil some of our personal and professional endeavours. Most of the times, we relinquish many of our cherished goals because they fall outside of our comfort zone.

We make new goals, new dreams and develop new passions from time to time. We make new resolutions to change ourselves in order to meet those desired goals. But this desire to change also makes us reluctant to leave things that are familiar. For most of us, leaving our comfort zone is difficult because of the fear of the unknown which coaxes us right back into the known and old familiar ways. We might feel frustrated and annoyed about the fact that we have to leave our comfort zone. We often feel stuck to adapt ourselves to unfamiliarity and avoid anything that is not comfortable. To overcome this pattern of avoidance, it is important to learn to step outside our comfort zones and get accustomed to discomfort.

What is comfort zone?

The comfort zone is a behavioural space where your activities and behaviours fit a routine and a pattern that involves less risk and stress. It provides familiarity, security and to some extent some level of certainty. Within our comfort zone, we become comfortable with what is familiar and get used to a steady level of performance. This soon makes us complacent as we easily fall into comfortable habits and begin to avoid those which are not.

We avoid changing most of our habits and behaviours by rationalising our thinking and saying ‘this is not the right time.’ or ‘It’s not important for me to do it.’ We tend to structure our lives to avoid moments and tasks that cause us discomfort. But those are the things that are probably important for our personal and professional growth and to maximise our potential. We hold ourselves back by thinking it is better to stay the way we are in order to avoid the discomfort, stress and anxiety.

Why is it important to come out of your comfort zone?

We are comfortable in engaging ourselves in a familiar pattern, but sometimes they may not be serving your current goals. They may prevent you from making necessary changes and hold you back from reaching your full potential. You may not be open to new challenges, to learn, grow and try new things. You begin to underestimate your ability to make any kind of change by judging yourself and end up convincing yourself that you will never be able to make necessary changes. Such thoughts can influence your actions and keep you from doing things that you might otherwise would like to pursue and can cost you your own success.

But with little awareness, understanding and by making few adjustments, you can break away from your routine and can push yourself to make those necessary changes in order to pursue your goals and aspirations. By learning to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, you can open a lot of new possibilities and discover things about yourself that you could not have otherwise discovered. You might learn things that you are capable of and could achieve things that you could not have anticipated. You cannot be successful in achieving your dreams if you only stick to a comfortable habit pattern and routine. Sometimes you need to take risk of attempting something which is outside of your comfort zone as well.

Outside of your comfort zone

“ Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.” – Shannon L. Alder.

Within our comfort zone, there is little stress and anxiety. We can anticipate things to certain extent and know what’s coming next and can plan accordingly. Whereas outside of your comfort zone, you are open to risks, challenges, and open yourself up to the possibility of more stress and anxiety. But sometimes, a little bit of healthy stress and discomfort is not all that bad and is required to provide motivation for us to achieve desired goals.

“Being slightly uncomfortable, whether or not by choice, can push yourself to achieve goals you never thought you could.”

But it is important to not to push yourself too far and enter the zone of bad stress. This if happens can interfere with your ability to work well, to learn and to plan effectively. Here are some benefits of getting accustomed to “productive discomfort.”

• It improves your performance by opening up to challenges and taking risks.

• Makes you more creative by trying new things.

• Lowers your fear of failure and creates openness to new experiences.

• Improves your curiosity, imagination, and drive to explore.

• You can deal with new and unexpected changes easily.

• Improves your productivity and you will be willing to push your boundaries by adjusting to what was difficult.

We know what we need to do to improve our lives. We say we want to change for the better. But we often are held back by our belief that sameness equals safety and change equals discomfort. The key is to be aware of whether your comfort zones are preventing you from creating change and to be willing to leave what is familiar to make the change you desire. Here are some ways to get accustomed to ‘Productive discomfort’.

Try new things

We have a tendency to only seek out information we already agree with and avoid doing new things. Seeking new experiences, learning new skills and opening yourself to new ideas inspire you to challenge your confirmation bias. You can see old problems in new light and take risks. By challenging yourself to things you normally wouldn’t do, you can experience some of the uncertainty and get used to tackle changes easily. Try changing your daily work routine or try some new activities and be open to new experience.

Decide to take the leap

One of the important factor to break out of your comfort zone is to find your source of conviction about why a task is important to you or why making that change is essential. When you face situations that are not in your comfort zone, even if you feel the discomfort, believe in your convictions. This way, you can fight through the discomfort to take that leap towards the desired change. You may come to realise that what you feared most is not all that true and in a way, slight discomfort becomes normal to you.

Take risks

Every time you open yourself to challenges and risks, regardless of their outcome, they provide you with learning experience and provide you an opportunity to utilise your store of untapped knowledge and capabilities. Even if you make mistakes and don’t get it right, there are always these experiences you have to tap into in future. Taking risks is important for your personal growth. challenges and risks expand the size of your comfort zone and you can cultivate openness to experience.

Do things differently

To stretch beyond your comfort zone, you need to make changes either large or small in the way you do things on a daily basis. For instance, sometimes slowing down is all it takes to make you uncomfortable especially if you are used to speed or quick thinking. If you are one of that conflict avoidant, you must embrace conflict. If you are an introvert, you have to do things which you have been avoiding like meeting new people or having different conversation. By doing things differently, you can expand your comfort zone and open yourself up to new possibilities.

Finally, Start with making small changes.

It is always overwhelming to step into discomfort and into the unknown. But instead of thinking of big picture, it will be easier to break down what you want to accomplish by making small changes. Getting used to ‘productive discomfort’ is to embrace new experience and to reach the state of optimal anxiety in a manageable way.

In conclusion,

Comfort zones exist in every area in our lives. To practice ‘productive discomfort’, be aware of which comfort zone may not be serving your current purpose or which comfort zones are preventing you from making the desired change in your habits or behaviour. If you feel that you are stuck in your routine, challenge your underlying belief and make small changes to your routine to slowly move out of your comfort zone.