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Published on October 12, 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

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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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Published on October 16, 2020

13 Productive Things to Do on a Sunday

13 Productive Things to Do on a Sunday

Sunday’s are amazing days. For most of us, Sunday’s are a day of rest — a chance to relax, spend time with our family and friends and step away from work. Yet, for many people, Sunday’s can be a day of gloom. The thought of having to go back to work the next day and rejoin the hustle and bustle of everyday working life creates a dark cloud over a day that should be a joy.

With the right approach, though, Sunday’s can be days of rejuvenation—a chance to recharge our batteries—and to set ourselves up for a fantastic week. It is just a matter of the way you look at Sundays.

Sunday’s give me a chance to take stock of how my week has gone and decide what I want to achieve the following week. Each Sunday allows me to step back from the everyday grind and to measure my progress against the plan I had for the week and to reset that plan to make the next week even better.

Here are 13 ways you can turn Sunday’s into amazingly productive days:

1. Wake up at Your Normal Time

I grew up thinking Sunday’s were a great day to ‘catch-up on my sleep’. The problem here is by over-sleeping on a Sunday, you often find it difficult to get to sleep Sunday night and that begins the cycle of sleep debt you want to avoid.[1]

Waking up at your normal time maintains regular sleep patterns and this helps to make sure your sleep schedule is consistent throughout the week. When you are in a perpetual sleep debt all week, your productivity will sink. Ensuring you have a good night sleep every night, keeps you in a highly productive state.

2. Start the Day With “Me-Time”

“Me-time” is time you give to yourself.[2] It’s time you can spend doing all the things you love doing without the fear of being interrupted. That could be exercise, reading, going for a long walk or meditation.

Before Google and smartphones, people in the U.K. used to wake up on a Sunday morning, take a short walk to the local newsagent to buy the Sunday papers. The Sunday papers had all sort of supplements on books, lifestyle, gardening and fashion.

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You would get home, settle into your favourite armchair and spend an hour or two reading through all these supplements. For me, I would put on some relaxing music and just relax with a nice cup of tea. It was a wonderful way to spend Sunday morning. No stress, no pressure, just me and the Sunday papers.

Decide what you want to do with your Sunday morning, make sure it is focused on you and start this week. You will thank yourself for it.

3. Do Some Exercise

Now, this does not mean you go out and do a 10-mile run or spend one or two hours in the gym. What this means is to get outside and move.

Our lifestyles today have taken away a lot of natural movement. This has become particularly prominent this year with many of us having to work from home. Those walks to the bus stop, train station and the office have gone. Now we get up, move from one room to another, sit down and start work.

Sunday’s give you a chance to move. Take that opportunity. Get yourself outside for an hour or two. Enjoy nature. Go with your family or friends and just have a relaxing hour or two in nature. This is possibly one of the best ways to reduce stress, get some healthy exercise and set yourself up for a wonderful week.

4. Plan the Day

Not having a plan for the day will leave you at the mercy of outside events. Instead, decide on Saturday evening what you will do the next day. Make sure you wake up at your normal time, indulge in your favourite morning drink and start your day.

Having no plan for the day, will likely result in you waking up late, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep the next evening and you will waste the opportunity to make the day count.

Your plan does not have to be too detailed. Something similar to:

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  • Wake up and make coffee
  • Put on some great music
  • Sit down and enjoy coffee
  • Take a 2-hour walk
  • Read for an hour or two
  • Spend some time with the kids

Just make sure you have a rough plan for the day, but keep things as flexible as possible.

5. Watch a Sports Game

This is a great way to get yourself away from thinking about work and your troubles. I’m a big rugby and motorsport fan and even in these difficult pandemic times, there are plenty of sports events I can watch on YouTube.

Whatever sport you enjoy, take some time on Sunday to watch a game. Just getting into the game, enjoying the skills on show and marvelling at the professionalism removes you from your everyday world for a while. It’s a great way to give your brain some much-needed relaxation and provides a wonderful distraction from your everyday normal life.

6. Make Sure You Do Something Different

Doing the same things day after day will eventually turn every day into a grind. You want to be looking forward to your Sunday’s. Plan to go out for a drive in the countryside, or a walk in an unfamiliar park, or go to the cinema or an outside concert.

Do anything that breaks up your routine. Like watching a sports game, it takes you away from the normal everyday life you lead and gives you something refreshingly different to enjoy and experience.

7. Clean Up

I know, most people hate doing house chores but having a clean, ordered home does wonders for your overall mental wellbeing. I love ending Sunday with a beautifully clean home, knowing everything is in its place, the floors are clean and all my laundry is put away and ready for the following week.

It can be hard to find the time to stay on top of all the cleaning during the week, so setting aside some time each Sunday to do a cleanup leaves you feeling refreshed, energized and ready for whatever the following week will throw at you.

8. Prepare You Clothes for the Following Week

This may seem a bit excessive, but it saves so much time and cognitive overload. All it takes is one bad night’s sleep and you wake up and find yourself rushing around trying to get yourself ready for your first appointment.

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In that state, trying to decide what clothes to wear in another decision you just don’t need. It’s far better to make a rough plan on a Sunday what you will wear for work and have all these clothes ready, washed and ironed.

It also prevents discovering the shirt you want to wear for the early morning meeting is still in the laundry basket when you need it. Plan ahead. It saves so much time and stress.

9. Do a Weekly Planning Session

I’ve experimented doing a weekly planning session on different days but by far, the best day to plan is Sunday. I find that Sunday evenings are the best times to open up my calendar and to-do list, and to plan for the week ahead. It sets me up for the week ahead.

It also helps me to sleep better on Sunday evening, knowing exactly what I need to accomplish the following week. I can start Monday morning without wasting time trying to figure out where things were left the previous Friday.

What I am looking for are where all my meetings are, which days I can focus on my deep and project work and to make sure I have everything processed from the week before.

10. Clear Out Your Email

What? Doing email on a Sunday? Yes. Why? Because the worst thing you can do is start the new week with an inbox full of last week’s unreplied-to emails.

For most of us, Monday morning is likely to be the one day in the week we do not have a lot of email in our inboxes, so we can begin the day on our most important project work. If you spend an hour or two cleaning up your email from last week, you miss a tremendous opportunity to start with a clean slate.

We don’t get a lot of email in on a Sunday, so you can process your inbox and actionable folders to make sure when the new week begins, you not only have a set of outcomes you want to achieve that week, but also begin the new week with no hangovers from the week before.

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11. Do Some Work on Your Side Project

Now, this does not mean work. This means your own personal projects. It could be a DIY project, doing something in your garden, restoring an old car or writing your book.

Sunday’s give you incredible opportunities to do all those things you dream of doing but never seem to find time to do them. Just getting on and doing these side projects removes you from your everyday work, and allows you a few hours to do the things you love doing.

12. Read a Book

During the week, it can be hard to read a good book. We get up, rush out the door to get to work (or move to our home work station and start the computer). When we finish the day, we are exhausted and just want to vegetate in front of the TV.

Don’t waste Sunday’s. They give you a great opportunity to spend time with the books you want to read.

13. Prepare You Meals for the Following Week

This is a great one for those of you who are following a healthy diet and exercise plan. Preparing meals for the following week not only saves a lot of time, it also encourages you to eat healthy on those exhausting days when all you want to do is eating pizza and flopping down on the sofa.

Having a set of pre-prepared meals reduces the temptation during the week when your willpower is at its lowest. It’s quick, healthy and easy to do. It makes sure you are sticking to your diet plan.

Bottom Line

I am not suggesting you try and fit all these things into Sunday. Just pick a few that resonate with you. Do those that will give you the biggest benefit and most joy.

Sunday’s need to be restful, relaxing and give you a chance to do those things you do not normally have time to do. It’s an incredible day, so don’t waste it laying in bed watching endless episodes of your favourite TV series.

More of What You Can Do During Weekend

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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