Are you setting yourself up for success or for failure?

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Today I want to talk about setting reasonable expectations for yourself and for your goals. Many of us struggle with this and set ourselves expectations that are very hard to meet – “I’ll never get upset with my children”, “Everyone will be wowed by my presentation”, “I’ll lose 5 pounds every week on this diet”, “The trip will be the best we’ve ever had”- and all sorts of other superlatives.

I know this sounds exaggerated, but many of you may be surprised when you listen closely to the voice in your head…

For me, it was a couple of weeks back when I gave my first ever webinar on Happify. I was determined to make it the best webinar ever where every attendee walked away inspired and eager to take action! It was an unreasonable expectation in hindsight, given that I’d never done a webinar before – my experiences over the years were talks and workshops where I was interacting with others in person.

And so I did not foresee the disorienting feeling of being live with hundreds of people listening – none of whom I could see, but all of them can see me. And without the feedback that eye contact provides, I lost a feel for what I was saying, I felt I was rambling, and perhaps I even was, and I’m pretty sure I started getting really repetitive.

The minute the webinar was over, I felt a deep sense of disappointment and regret, desperately wishing I could go back to the moment before it had started and redo the whole thing all over again.

Luckily I was doing my second webinar the following week, and this time I set myself reasonable expectations. It’s not that I let go of how I would ideally want it to turn out. But I didn’t spend much time hanging onto that vision. Instead, I readied myself for the fact that it’s a journey, and that there will be forward and backward steps on the way to my bigger aspirations.

In short, I let go of perfection

Because the problem with unreasonable expectations is that outcomes are always ALSO dependent on factors over which we don’t have a lot of control. Such is life – nothing is in isolation. When you aim for perfection, you’re essentially setting yourself up for disappointment and perhaps even shame. Because hey, isn’t that when the inner critic gets loud and nasty.

And the research shows that for many of us, even a few such instances can lead to what’s called Learned Helplessness which sets off its own downward spiral of “Why bother”, “It’s not even worth trying”, “I just can’t do it…”. 

Instead of reaching for your highest goals, you fall into a trap of negativity and stuck-ness.

The way out is to set reasonable expectations

If you don’t meet these expectations, you’re less disappointed and you can maintain your motivation to keep going.
And if you do better than the expectations, you’re overjoyed, your motivation soars, and you feel even better about yourself, others and life.

So take a moment to look at the tasks, chores or goals you’re pursuing.

What kind of expectations are you setting yourself? Are they reasonable? Do you hear the words “should”, “always”, “never”, “everyone” that leave little room for failure or setbacks? 

Because failure is a given when you’re reaching for your true aspirations

And unless you give it room to land, you’re not going to rise to your full potential.

Think about it this week, and modify your expectations if they’re unreasonable and bordering on perfection. I’ll be back next week with more on this topic, because as women, couldn’t we all do with cutting ourselves some slack?

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