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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)?

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.

More Articles About Having High Expectations

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 January 15, 2021

8 Time-Tested Confidence Buildinng Habits You Can Start Now

8 Time-Tested Confidence Buildinng Habits You Can Start Now

Confidence is one of the greatest things you can learn and practice. But it can be confusing, overwhelming and hard. It is a skill and it does take practice but by making some things into habits, you can help your confidence blossom. 

Confidence is “a belief in one’s own self and one’s ability to succeed.” It is made by a simple process:

First, you have to want to achieve a goal or improve, then you are afraid of the change. But you do it anyway, fail and do it over again over until one day, you aren’t afraid of it anymore. You are confident in your ability to succeed at a task.

Just like learning to ride a bike or any skill really, you took a deep breathe and you tried, you fell off your bike and cried, but eventually, you got back on.

Until one day, you cycle without even thinking that you are going to fall off. It is same for any area of your life, if you want to be more self confident, do more things that scare you and incorporate these 8 essential habits into your daily life.

1. Reminding Yourself of Your Victories

Stop reminding yourself of your failures that you habitually do it — putting yourself down, criticizing yourself and over-exaggerating your failures. It is time to draw a line in the sand and start letting that old mindset go, it is undermining your confidence.

It’s scary and new and you may feel afraid, but it is the best choice you will make. Instead of reminding yourself of your failures and how you aren’t good enough, remind yourself of your wins, all you have overcome. Remind yourself of all the good you have done and all the good you can do.

Focus solely on the positive and what you can do and when the hating thoughts come up, just let them pass by or argue with them.

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If it says “you aren’t good enough.” You say “actually I am.”

“You aren’t perfect.” You say “No I am not perfect but that is more than good enough, I am enough just as I am, I don’t have to be perfect.”

Your confidence depends on it so get into the habit of reminding yourself that actually, you are pretty great and have a lot of reasons to be confident.

2. Ask Yourself: What Did You Learn?

Moving forward with changing your inner narrative, you have to start to ask the question: What did I learn?

With practicing confidence, you come across a lot of failure. Instead of beating yourself up and going “why me?” Ask yourself:

“What did I learn? How did that not work? What can I do better?”

Nothing undermines your confidence more than you beating yourself up all the time. Instead of focusing on how you have failed and not achieved the result you wanted, make it a habit to ask yourself questions so the next time around, you can try again from a new angle. Ask yourself how you fell off the bike so next time, you can avoid potholes.

By getting in the habit of questioning your failures instead of bullying yourself, your confidence will become unbreakable because failure won’t shatter your confidence. Just keep learning and keep moving forward.

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3. Don’t Judge Others

This is such a key habit when it comes to building confidence. When we judge others, especially negatively, we create a negative cycle in our head that encourages insecurity. When you judge someone negatively, it makes you think that someone else is negatively judging you. Breeding this type of insecurity will only ever undermine your self esteem and confidence.

People are wonderful but they aren’t perfect. It isn’t their job to perfectly adhere to the way you want the world to be. So to put it simply, don’t judge and let people be as they are. Don’t get caught in that negative mental cycle.

On the flip side of this, you have to understand that people are going to judge you and that their opinion of you, is none of your business. You can’t control how other people choose to see you, you can only control how you judge others. Don’t play a game you can’t win by trying to control other people’s thoughts. It’s like trying to play chess underwater at night. If you tried really hard, it could possibly be done but what is the point.

4. Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

If you want to get into a habit that will help you become more confident, this is it. Everything you want is on the other side of your comfort zone; this applies to confidence.

You gain confidence by challenging yourself and overcoming obstacles. Don’t shy away from challenges and things that make you uncomfortable. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Get into the habit of saying “Oh this makes me uncomfortable, better tackle it head on then” and get in the habit of saying Yes and No: Saying Yes to things you would like to do even if it scares you and No to things you would not like to do.

By saying Yes to things you enjoy and challenge you, you grow in confidence as you overcome them. By saying No to things you don’t want to do, things that bring your down or make you feel low, confidence can also bloom. By standing up for yourself, you assert yourself and your self confidence can blossom.

5. Have the “I Can Handle It” Mindset

This is a beautiful habit to get into in general and it will help your confidence bloom and your anxiety go down.

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Get into the habit of having a I Can Handle It Mindset. You have overcome so many things in your life but we still have the overwhelming fear that we can’t handle bad things coming your way.

But you can, you can handle it because you have handled it time and time again. Stop telling yourself that you can’t and start telling yourself that you can. Whatever comes your way, whatever adversity. You Can Handle It. With this habit, confidence can blossom and grow because you are unstoppable.

6. Find Validation From Within

If you rely on other people for constant validation and praise to give you a confidence boost, you will struggle. As soon as they don’t validate you, you will feel less confident than before. This is whyThe Desire to Be Liked Will End You up Feeling More Rejected.

Get in the habit of validating yourself, whatever you want to hear from someone else, say it to yourself. When you accomplish something, pat yourself on the back, don’t go looking for outward validation. This simple change of supporting yourself and search within for the support you need will help your confidence bloom!

There is one very simple logic to this, your happiness and your confidence are your responsibility. Why would you put your life in the hands of someone else? It isn’t their job to make you happy or validated, it is yours. You also can’t control them at all, which means your confidence and self worth are completely out of your control.

Change that. Find support and validation from within – Don’t Wait for People to Praise You. Do It Yourself Every Single Day.

7. Get Fit

Fitness is the perfect habit to get into if you want to grow confidence because everytime you go, you get better. You grow, you learn new things, you fail and then you amaze yourself with what your body can do, over and over again.

Nothing has helped my confidence bloom as much as taking up a sport. There are so many options for you. Running is the perfect example, the first one is awkward, hard and exhausting. But the next run is a little easier, a week later, you start looking forward to it and then finally, you are running 5K without stopping.

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If you want to get into a habit that reminds you that you are capable, find a sport that interests you and start.

8. Practice Gratitude

Now this isn’t groundbreaking I know, but gratitude is such an important habit to get into if you want to be more confident.

When you practice gratitude, you put yourself in a much better headspace which will in turn, help you feel more confident. Most importantly, when your confidence gets knocked by something or someone, you can always come back to gratitude and be happy for all that you have. It helps keep you aligned and focused on all the good and positive in your life, stopped all the negativity from creeping in and keeping you down.

If you practice gratitude once a day, your life will change because it reminds you of the reality that you are good enough as you are — that is never up for debate.

Try these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

Final Thoughts

These habits might be small but they can create an intense boost to your confidence and your rebound when you have had your confidence knocked. You are exceptional and you should be confident in your ability to do things and in who you are.

If you are still struggling with that, spend some time working out what you’re afraid of and go and do it right now, overcome it and remember that you are unstoppable.

More Confidence Boosting Tips

Featured photo credit: Olivier Rule via unsplash.com

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