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Managing Expectations

Having personal expectations is normal. You usually set these expectations as a standard for yourself from your experiences and what you believe to be reasonable. Your expectations can serve as a guardrail that guides your behaviors. You can even expect that others will have expectations for you to live up to. The idea behind this post is not whether or not the expectations are realistic or unrealistic but more about deciding not to live solely by other people's expectations of you.

Managing personal expectations is a monumental task for any individual. Still, it's more burdensome when one tries to work or live by the expectations of others. It's no doubt simplistic to hear that you shouldn't let other people's expectations of you determine your trajectory in life. Of course, you shouldn't. However, you will invest significant effort into getting their respect, but it may come at a considerable cost to your mental health and well-being.

The stress of working off someone else's expectations can leave you feeling powerless in your life. The accompanying powerlessness leaves you second-guessing or waiting for approval of your judgment. Thus, you begin to apply conditions to your successes; they are only worthy of acknowledgment when others reinforce them through praise.

When you cannot live up to someone else's expectations, you experience personal frustration and the frustration of the person you unintentionally let down. To grow, you cannot expect to control or be controlled by the outside world to the point where you need constant approval.  

In the 2005 translated version of Immanuel Kant's Introduction to Logic, he writes, "Reason is an active principle which ought not to borrow anything from [the] mere authority of others, … But the indolence of very many persons makes them prefer to tread in the footsteps of others rather than to exert their own understanding."

From Kant's perspective, you shouldn't lazily accept the opinions of others as the holy grail of your life because following someone else's reasoning means you "can never be anything but copies of others." Yes, it's not so simplistic, but when you imitate another person, how do you know when you behave independently? Should you closely follow the expectations of others, "the world would forever remain in one and the same place." Kant encourages individual reasoning as being significant to who and what we become in life.

Think of that time you were working on your goal/project and making decisions you considered to be "good enough" for each phase of the goal/project, as you thought being able to adapt to changes provided the best opportunities to be successful. Then another person intervenes and suggests you would've been further along in your progress if you had made better decisions or listened to their suggestion.

Suggestions about life and living shouldn't be prescriptive. They should be descriptive and allow your experiences to enhance personal growth. When you meet your expectations, the sense of fulfillment is unmatched because the effort to achieve your goals reinforces your internal self-belief and fills you with positive emotions. Your positive emotions keep you engaged and motivated to pursue your goals.

Therefore, when you begin your journey, it can be helpful to know if you are who social scientist Herbert A. Simon refers to as a "maximizer" or a "satisficer" when it comes to making decisions. As a "maximizer," you want to make the best decision upfront after considering your options. On the other hand, as a "satisficer," your approach is different from that of the "maximizer." You will review your choices, but deciding what to do and how to proceed will rely on an initial "good enough" decision to get started.

Whether you are a "maximizer" or a "satisficer" is neither right nor wrong; it is how you do things. There are times when you will be one or the other. Regarding managing expectations and applying reasoning, your decision will rely on whether you want to get things done quickly or incrementally, where you can make changes as you go along. Proceeding as "satisficer" is not the same as "flying by the seat of your pants."

None of this negates the need for support at appropriate times, but you and not another person should determine that. Your efforts/achievements can seem inconsequential when considering how they measure up against others' expectations of you. It's time you start to recognize there's no set formula for living your best life.

Empowering Minds. Inspiring Lives.

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1 comentário

28 de dez. de 2023

Thanks for this compassionate post!

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