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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

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

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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.

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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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Published on October 26, 2021

10 Things To Do When You’re Angry At Yourself (For Your Mistakes)

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10 Things To Do When You’re Angry At Yourself (For Your Mistakes)

When you make a mistake, you quickly forget all the wins and praise lauded on you over the years. Make one measly mistake and it’s all you can think about. And, unfortunately, you may carry it with you for a lifetime. This is normal, but not healthy.

Mistakes happen, and the wise know that that’s how you learn. Stumble and fall, and get up again—it’s the cycle of human development from toddlerhood. Still, when you make mistakes, this experiential wisdom can fly out the door. Your first reaction may be, “I’m angry at myself.” This may also be the exact phrase you use in your Internet search for answers. First, know that you’re not alone. Second, there are numerous ways to cool this heated emotion and get yourself back on track.

So, sit back, take a deep breath, and consider these ten things you can do when you’re angry at yourself for your mistakes

1. Remember, You’re Human

Everyone makes mistakes, and you will, too. Once you’ve realized that you are a part of this imperfect group called humans, you’ll feel better about your journey. In fact, when you’re angry for making mistakes, consider it a rite of passage. You’ll inevitably fail at times, say things that you shouldn’t, or fall short of expectations. Not to be glib, but rather honest—this is life. It’s being human. So, whatever mistakes you’ve made before and whatever ones you will make in the future, they’ll help you grow as a professional and as a human.

2. Get Your Anger in Check

Anger is a troubling emotion because it clouds your judgment and logical decision-making process. It’s also incredibly unhealthy. Anger fuels a spike in your blood pressure, increases stress and risk of cardiovascular disease, and suppresses your immune system. Additionally, unmitigated anger can fuel dangerous outcomes including violence and addicted behaviors.

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You need to learn how to manage your anger. By admitting aloud, “I’m angry at myself,” you own your state of mind. Now, check it. Don’t let it fester and grow. Remember, mistakes are manageable, but untethered anger is not. If you don’t get your anger in check, it can have a negative impact on the rest of your life.

3. Vent and Get It Off Your Chest

One way to get your anger diffused is to vent. There’s nothing more liberating than sharing how you feel with the world. But take note—venting on social media isn’t a wise idea. It can derail your personal and professional life if you go off on someone or indulge in a self-deprecating rant.

Instead, find a trusted source to vent to. This could be anyone from a friend to your pet. Just tell them, “I’m angry at myself.” Get off your chest all the bottled-up emotions weighing you down. The company of a trusted group of friends or even a support group is a great place to vent. These collectives are designed to listen to whatever is weighing you down.

You might even find the best place for you to vent is a journal. Writing down how you feel and what you’ve learned from this experience is not only a great way to vent but also gives you a place to park your thoughts and emotions for later reflection.

4. Get Up and Get Moving

Exercise and activity are great ways to exhaust the “I’m angry at myself” emotion bubbling within. Take a brisk walk or attack the weight bag or consider cleaning out the closet or garage. Occupying your mind, body, and soul with productive physical activity is the next logical step in freeing yourself from this burden.

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There is nothing more liberating than working up a healthy sweat. You’ll find that physical activity will instantly diffuse your anger and that a spike of endorphins gives you clarity. Once you’ve found a healthy way to exercise your adrenaline, you’re ready to step into a logical space and examine what went wrong and how can you manage things better next time.

5. Seek Counsel From Others

When you’re angry or dealing with any heightened emotion, your judgment is clouded. It’s hard to find your way out of the forest. Seek counsel—whether it’s in the form of a friend, family member, or professional—and tell them, “I’m angry at myself,” and layout why. They’ll listen and will help you sort through your anger. They may also offer advice on what you could change moving forward or how you could get past self-berating. Their authentic positive affirmations and willingness to listen will be the best antidote for your anger.

Keep in mind, it’s not a sign of weakness to seek out professional help, especially if anger is an ongoing reaction you experience to setbacks. A counselor or clinician is trained to help you unearth the root of such emotions and help you explore why they are triggered. Moving forward, you’ll have the skills to better manage your emotions and explore alternate and more thoughtful paths when mistakes occur.

6. Tamper Down Your Inner Critic

Don’t let mistakes flair up that inner voice that says, “I’m not good enough.” While you’ll wonder if it’s true and for a moment (or two) believe your inner critic, stop yourself from heading down that victim slippery slope. Giving in to your inner critic can halt your progress. You’ll succumb to the doubt and always wonder, “if I tried again, would the same results occur?”

That kind of paralyzing fear will get you nowhere. Instead, recall the words of your counsel and your inner wisdom—mistakes will happen. So, announce aloud, “I made a mistake. I’m angry at myself.” Then park it there, shut off the engine, and walk away. The next day, get up and get back to life, and don’t let wasteful, inaccurate, and self-sabotaging inner dialogue slow you down.

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7. Learn From Your Mistakes

I’d like you to go back to the idea that mistakes happen and that they happen for a reason so that you can learn what not to do. “I’m angry at myself” should be the motivator to get it right. Stop and explore where the lesson is here. What is one thing you won’t do moving forward? What else did you take away? Perhaps there are people you need to speak with to smooth things over. There may be some course corrections that you need to make to move forward in a more positive direction.

Recently, I participated in a pivotal career conversation that didn’t go well at all. “I’m angry at myself,” I thought, for speaking too much in the moment to try and make things right, where silence would have been the best alternative. I learned from this mistake. Instead of overtalking, sometimes just pausing and listening is all that is needed. Moving forward, I’ve practiced more restraint when needed and have walked away from my professional conversations with better results and more confidence.

8. Take Time for Yourself

“I’m angry at myself” is one of the better motivators to get happy with yourself again. How? Exercise, reset, relaxation, and healthy distractions are just some of your gateways into a better headspace. Too often, people believe that the best way to get over something is to jump right back into it—whatever it is—or wherever your mistake is rooted. While this does work for many, some need a little time and space to sort it all out—and that’s okay. Separating yourself from the situation for a while and taking a mental health break can do wonders to cleanse your spirit. It may also give you some greater clarity.

Right now, you may be too close to the mistake(s) to gain a clear perspective. Remember, it’s okay to step back for a while and clear your head without feeling guilty about taking time for yourself. This mental reset will put some space between you and the mistakes so that you can come back refreshed and in a better state to step up and move forward.

9. Practice Relaxation Skills

Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation can do wonders to help you relax and reduce your heightened emotions. Just like exercise, you may discover that this form of release and restoration will not only help you work through your anger but also help you clear your head and restore your confidence. This may also be the time to build your own personal relaxation practice so the next time you make a mistake, you can step into your healing and restorative practice space and quiet your mind, body, and soul.

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10. Forgive Yourself

“To err is human, to forgive is divine.” We know this to be true, but don’t always practice it. Forgiveness is the true path to healing. You’ve probably have heard many stories about how this process has helped people come back from a very dark place including recovering from illness.

Forgiveness is powerful and is the only way to move forward. So, I’m going to leave you with this final challenge: how can you transition “I’m angry at myself” to “I forgive myself?”

Final Thoughts

When you find yourself stewing about all the “woulda, coulda, shouldas” that accompany the overarching thought “I’m angry at myself,” you have no more excuses to wallow in the derailing emotion of anger. Experimenting with one or all of the above strategies can help you shorten the period between making a mistake and having a moment of enlightenment. The reckoning that you’re human, you have people that believe in you, you have resources to support you, and you have a golden opportunity to learn and move forward should be all you need to make tomorrow better and your future better.

More Tips on How To Handle Your Mistakes

Featured photo credit: Marcos Paulo Prado via unsplash.com

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