Unrealistic Expectations

Expectations!! We all carry behavioral standards regarding ourselves, our families, friends, co-workers, etc. If we didn’t have expectations, what would we strive for? You may use them as an incentive, but if they are set too high, who are they really motivating? There is a fine line between a stretch goal and an unrealistic standard of excellence.

Recently I was talking with a friend about the perils of unachievable expectations and it got me thinking about what some of the unexpected outcomes. Here is a list I comprised of some possible consequences:

  1. You complete the list in a timely manner. Your boss is happy. You are happy. The world is good because you were able to please her by living up to your expectations.
  2. You complete 1/2 the items on the list but run out of time because there are too many tasks to get done in the allotted amount of time. You stress out about your boss’s reaction because you did not meet her expectations.
  3. You pass the buck and get someone else to complete the list for you (good delegation skills, another topic for later) and deal with the consequences of not having done them yourself.
  4. You completely shut down, freak out, rip the list into 100 tiny pieces then run out of the office screaming (OK, that may not be a realistic reaction).

One of the major problems with unrealistic expectations is that you know that they are probably unachievable yet you still hold people to them. I expect my children to do their homework, chores, take a daily shower and brush their teeth. I don’t believe that any of these expectations are out of reach because my kids are 13 and 20. If I throw piano lessons, sports, dance and 4 other things on top of their daily list they set my kids up for failure.

Surely you are not defining expectations to make others look or feel bad about themselves. Part of setting expectations is learning to prioritize them and rate them in order of importance before giving them. Create a list of what must be accomplished, then once you are finished, write down separate list of stretch goals. How many of these goals compete with each other? Do you think they are realistic or are you setting someone up for certain failure?

When judging these lists, think about the person/people you are giving them to and what their abilities are. I have heard people say that they give out high expectations because they think they can handle it.  No one likes failure and no one wants to feel as though whatever they do it is not enough. I guarantee you by setting people up for success, you will get more accomplished and the world will be a happier place.

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