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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

When Is It Good to Set High Expecations for Yourself (And When Is Not)?

When Is It Good to Set High Expecations for Yourself (And When Is Not)?
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The main character and narrator in Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” was Pip, whose great expectations were to rise above his poor, uneducated existence to become a gentleman worthy of marrying his true love. Despite his high expectations, he doesn’t end up with a girl for a variety of reasons.

High expectations aren’t always worth setting. But when should you set high expectations? And when should you set your sights a little lower?

In every situation that calls for expectations, your guideword should be “reasonable.” Adjusting your expectations to the right height can help you set realistic goals, balance your achievements, save yourself the disappointment, and find contentment in your life.

When to Set High Expectations?

The setting of expectations is highly personal. Rule No. 1 is to not set them for others over whom you have no control. When people disappoint you, it’s usually because you set unreasonable expectations for them.

Say you’re looking forward to a magical New Year’s Eve celebration with your crush. You’re planning to express your love, so your crush must be, too—right? When that doesn’t happen, you’re devastated because your crush didn’t live up to your expectations.

Magical thinking is defined as the belief that one’s ideas, thoughts, actions, words, or use of symbols can influence the course of events in the material world.[1] Magical thinking is the athlete who wears the same dirty socks every game since the team started winning or the person who expects extra cash when his palms start itching.

Magical thinking leads to phenomenally high expectations, but does it work? Studies have shown it gives true believers more self-confidence which, in turn, can improve performance. But if you interpret it strictly—that simply thinking about an outcome causes it—you’ll be sadly mistaken.

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Instead of magic, you should rely on setting high expectations for yourself where attainment would result in a meaningful improvement in your life. Situations that call for high expectations include:

1. Your Job

Your job is one area of your life where you want to excel. You want to be better than others at what you do and to be rewarded for it. Striving for upward mobility prevents stagnation in your profession.

While having high expectations for yourself at work can be stressful, it can also make your job more engaging. Taking pride in your work, helping others grow, and delighting your clients are great ways to remind yourself why you do what you do. Providing value makes showing up to work every day fulfilling and worthwhile.

2. Your Health

Nothing in life deserves higher expectations than your health. Without it, everything else in life will feel like a struggle. Setting high standards for your exercise, diet, and nutrition keeps you physically capable. Exercise daily, and make sure every meal includes a fruit and a vegetable.

Treat your mental health the same way. Making time to meditate is a lot easier if you have high standards for your emotional well-being.

Of course, there are some health issues people can’t avoid, like getting certain cancers or autoimmune diseases. But setting high goals for treating or managing them is still important for your quality of life.

3. Your Treatment of Others

Even if you’re not an avid reader of the Bible, you’ve probably heard of the “Golden Rule”: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Respect for others is one area where you should never make compromises.

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Whoever you are, you owe others your time. Phil Stover, a venture capitalist and CEO of gaming community PvP.com, is unusual among VCs in his willingness to help entrepreneurs with things like pitch preparation.[2] While VCs are busy people, Phil knows the importance of treating others well.

Maintaining high expectations for how you treat others isn’t always easy. After all, there are a lot of people whose actions and words make it tough to respect them. Next time you have to deal with someone who’s being difficult, remember that respect is returned in the proportion it’s given.

One of the best ways to earn others’ respect is to treat them with respect. Perhaps in the attempt, you will help someone else figure out the importance of holding others in high esteem.

What if you don’t quite measure up to your expectations for your job, your health, or your treatment of others? You would still have done better than if you had not. That alone is a reason to hold high standards. But sometimes, it’s okay to let them slip.

When to Lower the Bar?

In a 2014 MRI study about happiness and expectations, neuroscientist Robb Rutledge noted: “Our basic finding is that happiness depends not on how well things are going, but whether things are going worse or better than expected.”[3]

Unmet expectations often result in pessimism, lack of motivation, and apathy. But setting the bar low simply because you fear failure isn’t a good idea.

Self-doubt isn’t much of a motivator, and that’s precisely why it’s important to overcome your fear of failure. Failure can be a good thing. It can help you learn new skills, rethink your assumptions, and find your path to happiness.

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Only when you set low expectations for yourself, however, can you truly appreciate failure. In these three situations, go ahead and lower your goals for yourself:

1. Your Hobbies

You pick up hobbies because you want to, not because you have to. In most cases, you do them for enjoyment, not to be the best at them. Unlike your desire to shine on that project at work, hobbies are less about competition and more about fun and personal growth.

Of course, you shouldn’t start a hobby with absolutely no expectations. Maybe your expectation is not to become a master chef but to learn some knife skills. You’ve set the bar lower without entirely forgoing the expectation that you will learn something new.

Even if you still need some help in the kitchen, you’ve still won. Whatever you’ve learned about knife skills is more than you knew before. Apply them to master another chef skill, such as cleaning a whole fish.

2. Your Household Chores

You want your house to be clean and tidy, right? Of course, but it doesn’t need to be the cleanest and tidiest in town.

No matter how many times or for how long you scrub that spot on the carpet, it won’t ever come entirely out. The stain has already set, so expecting yourself to eliminate it isn’t realistic.

Set a schedule that’s realistic for you. Homecare experts suggest vacuuming every day[4], but who has time for that?

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If you only have time to vacuum once a week, that’s perfectly fine. You’ll keep your house clean enough for you to enjoy it, and you can rest easy knowing the chore is complete.

3. Your Expectations of Others

You know that expecting too much out of other people just leads to disappointment. Why not instead set low expectations and be unsurprised when they meet or exceed them? You can’t force others to meet your expectations, so don’t frustrate yourself in the attempt.

Reasonable expectations for your friends and family will give you better, happier relationships with them. Wouldn’t you rather be happy with them than see them meet some artificial standard you’ve set for them? Compassion is the key to happy relationships.

Instead of viewing your lower expectations for others as allowing them to fail, think of it as giving them a chance to impress you. You’ll be impressed more often than you think.

Now, Back to Pip

Although Pip doesn’t get the girl, the lessons he learns in pursuit of his great expectations leave him content at the end of the novel. He learns the value of compassion in his relationships (i.e., setting lower expectations) and the value of respecting others (i.e., setting higher standards).

Pip reaches those great expectations of education, money, and becoming a member of high society, but none of those lift him to the highest goal of marrying the woman he loves. In his drive to succeed, he neglected those relationships that might have brought him more joy and love.

There’s nothing wrong with having great expectations. At times, there’s nothing wrong with not-so-great ones, either. To live your best life, know the difference.

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Featured photo credit: Jonathan Hoxmark via unsplash.com

Reference

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Kimberly Zhang

Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd
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If you are like most people, you probably have big goals and dreams that you would like to succeed in — you want to be the top in your career, live a healthy lifestyle, or flourish in your relationships.

Everyone dreams of a positive future, but most people don’t realize the secret to a truly successful life:

You determine your future in the way you spend your everyday moments. If you want to be a successful person, you must consistently develop good daily habits. As Aristotle pointed out:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.

Building positive daily habits is a huge challenge, but can you imagine the amazing things you could accomplish with just a little commitment and determination?

Creating lasting, healthy habits is the real key difference between people who are successful in life and those who are unsuccessful.

You might be wondering which specific habits make the biggest difference. Not to worry, I’ve compiled a comparison list to help you get a jump start on a successful future.

1. Successful people embrace change. Unsuccessful people fear change.

Change is a constant for all of humanity, and it is important that you develop a positive relationship with it.

When unexpected or unwelcome changes arise, ask yourself how you can embrace it instead of running away. A few practical ways to reverse a change-fearing mindset include:

  • Take a moment to recognize and address any fears associated with the upcoming change.
  • Communicate with a person you trust about your negative feelings toward change.
  • Practice positive thinking, which you can read about in the next section.

2. Successful people exude joy. Unsuccessful people think, say and do negative things.

A joyful, positive disposition can seem like a distant reality in today’s cynical world, but it may be easier to achieve than you think. All you have to do is notice the good things around you and practice being thankful.

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Mindfulness and gratitude are not just buzz words – choosing a positive attitude can honestly change your life. Many studies have found that thankfulness leads to greater happiness. Furthermore, research indicates that gratitude may even have a lasting positive impact on the brain and overall mental health.[1]

3. Successful people forgive others. Unsuccessful people hold grudges.

As a human being, you have likely been offended or hurt by others plenty of times. Don’t give in to the temptation to hold a grudge. Let it go.

Note that forgiving someone does not equate to giving up your boundaries (which are very important) or even admitting that the offending party is right. You should choose to let go for your own peace of mind.

4. Successful people track progress. Unsuccessful people just criticize.

Some kinds of criticism, such as constructive criticism, are good for personal and professional development. The kind of criticism I’m talking about is the pessimistic, nagging, unhelpful variety. This is the kind of criticism in play when you are unfairly harsh to yourself or others.

Toss unfounded criticisms aside and consider tracking your “wins” or your progresses, no matter how small. Take mental notes or keep a progress journal.

If you have a solid sense of what you have achieved, you will be less tempted to be hard on yourself.

5. Successful people share information, data and ideas. Unsuccessful people hoard.

If you have useful information or generate brilliant ideas on the regular, your first instinct may be to keep it all to yourself for personal gain and solo recognition.

Instead of hoarding bright ideas, share them with your team. Your talents will be on display for the team, and the team will be able to support you and make your ideas a reality.

6. Successful people are humble. Unsuccessful people talk more than they listen.

Humility is key. The ability to listen to other people, really listen and understand, is essential to success in both work and relationships — and to listen you have to be humble.

Everyone has experienced the frustration of being in a one-sided conversation. When someone approaches you with a question or concern, put your own world aside for just a moment and give them the kindness of your full attention.

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7. Successful people take risks. Unsuccessful people take the easy way out.

The next time your heart is racing and you want to walk away, consider embracing the risk. You never know what might happen if you take a chance.

Embracing risks looks like accepting the speaking engagement even though it seems a little scary. Success takes the courageous route, not the easy route.

8. Successful people learn, improve and read every day. Unsuccessful people stop learning.

Instead of binge-watching a show tonight, save an hour before bed to read a book and expand your mind.

Unsuccessful people are afraid to be flexible – they don’t challenge themselves to learn new things. Avoid this pitfall by exposing yourself to new thoughts and ideas every day.

9. Successful people handle problems well. Unsuccessful people act before they think.

The next time you run into a problem or even an emergency, try to work through your initial panic reaction with a few deep breaths.

Instead of acting rashly, think through your next actions as quickly but as logically as you can.

Learning to handle problems thoughtfully is an absolutely essential tool in the successful person’s toolbox (that’s you!).

10. Successful people accept responsibility for their failures. Unsuccessful people blame others.

Along with a previous tip about humility, this is one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do – but also the most rewarding. When you’ve failed, you must fight the urge to pass the blame. Successful people are able to fail honestly and gracefully.

And, hey, don’t feel bad about failing. Some of the most successful people in the world have failed too many times to count. It’s all a part of the process.

You can check out this article for more tips on how to fail well:

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How Failure Helps You To Succeed and Grow

11. Successful people work with passion and commitment. Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.

A short and sweet lesson for you:

You should never expect to achieve the things you want without working hard.

Follow your passion and stay committed to pursuing it. Work hard and stick to your habits every day. You’ll earn your reward.

12. Successful people spend time with the right people. Unsuccessful people think they already know it all.

A lot of people miss out on useful relationships and information sharing because they think they can do it all alone.

Spend time with people who inspire you, spur you to be a better person, and remind you that you can’t go it alone.

13. Successful people make to-do lists and maintain proper life balance. Unsuccessful people waste their time.

Ah, time management. Unsuccessful people never master the art of organization and planning.

Here are a few tips for you when it comes to time management:

  • Make to-do lists. Seriously, this will help you. Make time to do it every morning, evening, or whenever you are able.
  • Keep track of your time. Are you happy with the way you are currently balancing things? What changes can you make?
  • Keep a calendar full of your long-term goals (see next tip).

14. Successful people write down goals and think long term about their burning desires. Unsuccessful people get distracted every day.

Why is it so important to keep a long-term goal calendar? Here’s the deal:

The things you are passionate about today need a backbone.

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Give your passionate ideas sustainability by writing down goals and staying on task instead of succumbing to distraction.

15. Successful people compliment others. Unsuccessful people try to bring others down to their level.

There is no greater confidence than saying “no” to sudden jealous or envious feelings and choosing to sincerely admire someone’s talents instead.

Unsuccessful people live in a world driven by competition, but successful people know that building people up is far more rewarding than bringing them down.

16. Successful people want others to succeed. Unsuccessful people secretly hope they fail.

In the same vein as the point above, this tip is all about good intentions.

Care for the people around you. Encourage them toward their successes. Hoping that others fail will not help you at all.

17. Successful people know their purpose and mission. Unsuccessful people don’t know what they want to be.

The last thing that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is one of the most important:

Keep your mission in mind.

Don’t be swayed to and fro by passing emotions and events. Know who you are and pursue your dreams wholeheartedly.

Final thoughts

Above all, stay confident. Truly believe that you can be and are successful. Strive to prove it in your day-to-day habits and activities!

What are you waiting for? Choose one of the habits above and get started today.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Berkeley University of California: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

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