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The idea of defining one’s expectations isn’t as simple as trying to figure out what you want out of life or what you feel you should be able to accomplish. Some may say there isn’t anything simple about the prior at all, considering few people actually know what they want. However, for those who have some idea, or maybe know exactly what they want, there is another danger when it comes to defining expectations … and that is setting unrealistic ones.

It is often said we are our own worst enemies, and for those with strong conviction and a streak of perfectionism are living examples. The expectations one maps out can easily become unreasonable or rigidly fixed. As a result, a vicious cycle occurs. The expectation isn’t reached or realized to the extent one hoped and self-criticism begins. If allowed to run unchecked, this self-criticism becomes self-loathing. From there, other expectations, whether unrealistic or viable, are lost. As one gives up on their intended accomplishments, they also give up on one’s self.

How does one determine if the expectations they have mapped out are unreasonable? First, one needs to take a serious look at the expectations and see if maybe they have skipped a few of the required steps it would take to reach them. For example, say one wants to the foremost expert in a given field. It won’t happen overnight. There are some things that need to take place before that happens, such as the proper education or degree to get them started. From there, a lot of work and accomplishment will need to be met before one can acquire the desired status.

And the expectation doesn’t have to be nearly as grand or extreme as the above mentioned example. Whether it’s a self-expectation, professional expectation or mundane expectation, there are steps to be taken in order to meet it.

Once one knows what their expectations, one should determine the steps necessary to meet them. Also, one should take into consideration various alternative routes for accomplishing what one needs to do. Just because one avenue isn’t working, doesn’t mean that the expectation cannot be met in another fashion. Even if that alternative is not the ideal way to meet one’s intentions, it is certainly better than not meeting them at all.

The mind can play tricks on a person when it comes to expectations. Just because progress isn’t happening as quickly as one would like or expected (which once again, could be just an unreasonable perspective), it doesn’t mean that it isn’t working out at all. By creating steps to move towards a goal, one can gauge the amount of progress they are making, keeping a grounded perspective as they goes along.

The real key to accomplishing or acquiring those things you define necessary to your life path is to make sure that you aren’t sabotaging yourself from the beginning. An unrealistic picture is a surefire way to let yourself down and create a deteriorating cycle that will infect everything else you attempt. With as much as there is out in the world to erode confidence, we should not be helping the process along. Think carefully of the things you desire to fulfill and proceed with determination, but also be prepared to allow for setbacks and mistakes. Have back-up plans and push forward.


  • What of your expectations have you felt that you haven’t met?
  • Which of the expectations are unreasonable and how?
  • What can you do to make your expectations more attainable?
  • What other methods have you not considered?