Having High Expectations
We tend to lower our expectations so that if we fail, our disappointments won’t hurt. The fear of “expecting too much” is something we learned as early as childhood, whenever we didn’t get exactly what we wanted.
That is the paradox. We juggle trade-offs between high and low expectations. These two quotes explain the two different perspectives on expectations.
“There never was a winner that didn’t expect to win in advance” — Denis Waitley
“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed” — Sylvia Plath
The first quote expects to win, the second one expects nothing. Which attitude would you choose?
As I’ve learned over the years, this concept is all about balance. It’s not a simple choice of sticking to one attitude only.
Don’t “Try”, Just Do
Here’s another quote to think about:
“The key is not the will to win… everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important” — Bobby Knight
A positive attitude is essential to winning. But we both know that attitude is only one part of the formula. You have to actually put in the work. Even talent won’t get you anywhere if you don’t put in the work.
Preparation is the key. The work you put in prepares you for success. The books you read, your exercise routine, the productivity of your time, etc. — these “little things” compound and eventually affect the achievement of your goals.
We can’t reach our full potential if we prioritize short term pleasures over long term growth. We can’t get that job promotion, high profile client, or win, if we’re going out every weekend, binge-watching each night, and spending our free time lazily on the couch or in bed.
Use Failure As Source Of Strength and Insight
When I was in my early twenties, I tried starting various businesses. They all failed. As I went from failure to failure, the disappointment increased. It was a very discouraging time that I almost gave up on my goals altogether.
Thankfully, after all the failures, the one business I started with my dad became a success. Of course, I initially felt that I couldn’t do things on my own. But looking back now, I realize my previous ventures failed because they were too early for me.
Like I mentioned before, preparation is the key. These failures eventually taught me the lessons I needed to learn in order to succeed. If I gave up during those failures, I wouldn’t have figured out how to do it right.
When we look at our failures, we must not be too focused and disappointed with our outcomes.
Moping and crying about “why does this have to happen” won’t help. Instead, focus on taking control, learning and working better and smarter next time.
Keep the Expectations Internal
We feel the pressure of “not succeeding” because we compare ourselves to others. We are too concerned with external factors that we aim for lower expectations in order to spare our ego.
This is a trap, and everyone can fall into it. We can’t help but notice the neighbor who owns a better car, or the former schoolmate who’s more successful. But all that is just noise. We should only compare ourselves to who we were yesterday.
No external comparisons. No noise. No blaming others and not blaming yourself. You do everything you can, and if you fail, you learn and do better next time.
Besides, you shouldn’t take yourself or life too seriously. Focus on living well, and making progress at a sustainable pace.
The World Owes You Nothing
In conclusion, these are the things I’ve learned when it comes to balancing expectations:
Don’t expect anything from the world. Don’t be entitled, thinking that people should hand you anything.
Expect the best from yourself. Don’t settle unless you reach your goals. But don’t be unrealistic. You can’t achieve everything immediately. Have some patience!
Accept that there are external factors you can’t control. Understand that it’s okay to not blame yourself for bad outcomes.
But focus on what you can control. You have to give it your all, if you want to succeed at anything.
I’m often asked “But what about this or that?” The truth is we don’t know everything. In the end, we’re all trying to figure out our relationships, our careers, and our lives.
It’s a continuous process of failing, learning and trying again — and being smarter the next time around. The most important thing is to not give up.