Great Expectations

Expectations - Women at Forty

I’m not talking about goals here (or the Charles Dickens novel). Not the things we want to accomplish by the end of the day or end of a project. No. Expectations are different, and for some of us, paralyzing. So what’s the difference?

Here’s an example that some of you might relate to you. If you’re a writer you may have a daily writing goal of 1,000 words and a final word count goal of 90,000 words. Great goals to have. Your expectation attached to those goals however are what often stymies you. With each keystroke you expect a New York Times bestseller that will change the world. Forever. But bestsellers aren’t necessarily written during first drafts – or first books. Talk about working in a pressure cooker.

See the difference between goals and expectations? And can you see how expectations can sometimes paralyze us with fear? We’re planning our outfit for our interview with Matt Lauer and panicking about stage fright and we’ve barely written 500 words.

It’s those damn expectations. And the analogy holds for just about anything you’re working on with your whole heart. You’re eating healthy and working out – which is a goal in and of itself – but then you begin to expect a six-pack like the woman at your gym, or a certain magic weekly weight loss number, or fill-in-th-blank,  and then one day you realize you’ve lost sight of your purpose – your main goal. Damn expectations.

Here’s the thing about expectations. They’re based on a belief that something should happen in the future. And that’s where we get into trouble – the should.

We allow our expectations of what should happen to rob of us of the joy of doing, being, and achieving in the present.  It’s human nature to expect certain things. But when we lose sight of the work we’re doing in the present to focus on what we think should happen in the end, we end up missing out on an awful lot. Let’s be clear – there’s nothing wrong with wanting six-pack abs, or wanting to be a bestselling author. In fact they’re great things to work toward if they have meaning and value to you. It’s when those things begin to hinder us that the problem arises.

Yesterday when I was outlining this post I saw this on Geneen Roth‘s Facebook page and it confirmed for me that this is something most of struggle with (and that I was writing the post at the right time):

 

The process is the goal. And this is always true. Otherwise, you get to where you believe the goal is, and you raise the proverbial bar. You make another goal. And then, you push to get to that one, that goal. And make another one. And in the meantime, you keep missing what you call your life. And then you wonder how it all went by so fast and where you were while it was happening. That’s how people get to the end of their lives and suddenly realize, they missed the gifts. The small moments. The ordinary moments, on the way to the Big Get. The Goal.

Today, while we’re going about meeting your goals let’s save the great expectations for Charles Dickens and Pip and just be great at whatever we’re doing in the moment. Hope – yes, set goals – yes, and work – work our butts off, but let’s not be so tied to the “should” that we lose site of what already is.