How many times in your life have you experienced hurt, disappointment, anger, or stress from the difference between your imagination and reality?
When we set out to do things, we always expect that everything will turn out exactly the way we want. Does this sound familiar?
- “I’m going to finish my degree. And then all the companies will line up for me. I’ll pick the one with the best compensation. And I’ll be rich.”
- “My business idea is awesome. I’ll raise some cash. Hire a few people to build the product. We’ll roll it out. The media will write about it. I’ll get on TV. And then I’ll sell the company.”
- “I’ll make a few videos. Put them on YouTube. People will share them. One of my videos will go viral. And I’m in. Show me the money.”
The chances of those scenarios coming true? I don’t know exactly, but I’d guess it’s somewhere close to zero.
I’m not trying to bash your dreams here. But a little pragmatism doesn’t hurt—it’s not practical to have high expectations because they hardly come true.
Plus, they do more harm than good. When I was getting a master’s degree in business administration, I was secretly rubbing my hands the whole time. I thought that all the job offers would line up to hire me. And because I specialized in marketing, I thought I could start any company and turn it into a success.
But when I got my degree over six years ago, there was a financial crisis going on. Only one or two of my friends and classmates got hired by large firms. The rest took bad jobs because it was slim pickings.
That was my goodbye to high expectations.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you shouldn’t have high standards or aim high in life. Those things are good. But just don’t rely on your imagination for timelines and outcomes. It’s counterproductive:
- When you have high expectations and the outcome is worse: You’ll be frustrated.
- But when you have low expectations and the outcome is better: You’ll be grateful.
Barry Schwartz, a psychologist and author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, put it best:
The secret to happiness is low expectations.
Now, this isn’t new information. Most of us know that high expectations aren’t helpful. So why do we still have them? Because we still desire more, more, more. And when you want more, you expect more.
You see? You can’t fix your expectations without fixing your desires.
“But How Can You Get the Most Out of Life and Not Strive for More? That Doesn’t Make Sense.”
Here’s the thing: When you desire more, you also have more options.
Should I work more? Earn more money? Help more people? Spend more time with my family?
In general, having more options is a bad thing, and generally leads to confusion. And confusion often results in anxiety and regret. Do you know this feeling: “What if I made the wrong decision?”
So more isn’t better.
“Yeah, But I Want it All!”
You want it all, and I’m not saying this isn’t possible. Just don’t expect it. Don’t expect the world from yourself.
And more importantly: Don’t expect so much from others. No one’s perfect—people will disappoint you sometimes, and vice versa. Accept that this isn’t the end of the world.
When you live your life free of expectations, you see things for what they are.
Don’t wish that things were better. Make them better.
This article was originally published on Dariusforoux.com. It has been republished here with permission.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Darius Foroux is the author of Massive Life Success: Live a Stress-Free Life and Achieve Your Goals by Dealing with Anxiety, Stress, and Fear and founder of Procrastinate Zero. He writes at DariusForoux.com, where he uses tested methods and frameworks to share ideas for overcoming procrastination, improving productivity, and achieving more. Join his free newsletter.More from this Author