Expectations: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Anne Lamott wrote “expectations are resentments under construction” and I’m not sure there’s a more true thing that’s ever been written down about expectations.
Now if you’ve ever had the experience of silently-not-so-silently huffing under your breath or rolling your eyes, or clanking the dishes just a littttle bit too hard, because your partner didn’t anticipate your needs or meet your expectations, you know how true this is.
When we hold high, unspoken expectations in relationship, we set the other person to feel frustrated and blamed, and ourselves up for disappointment.
The same exact dynamic is true in business. Especially for goal-getting, ambitious women like you and me. When we set unattainable and arbitrarily high expectations for ourselves, when we silently demand our business to perform a certain way or else, chances are we’re on the fast track to self-resentment and disappointment. Taken to the next level, that disappointment can corrode into bitterness, questioning our self worth, and flirting with the idea of getting that 9-5 back, doubting our ability to ever succeed again. Sister, a flopped launch and low engagement are not a reason to lose your center and sense of power.
Here are my three top tips for keeping your expectations in check while still setting and going after your biggest goals.
- Get crystal clear about what your expectations actually are
Resentment starts to build when we haven’t been explicitly clear with ourselves about what we we expect an outcome to be. There is a difference between having high standards and high expectations. Whether you are preparing for a launch, publishing a livestream or blog post, or selling a product or service, ask yourself these questions:
What is your goal here?
Why do you want to achieve that goal?
What silent expectations (or as Brene Brown calls them in Dare to Lead, “stealth expectations”) are you holding about how that goal-getting will go for you?
Resentment starts to brew when you hold a certain expectation about an outcome (usually due to fear and perfectionism) without being honest with yourself in the first place about what you’re truly demanding. Take the time to get very clear about what your expectations are, what a successful outcome looks like in your mind, so that you’re more apt to be appreciative along the way, rather than beating yourself up.
- Be committed but not attached
The minute you approach your goal with the energy of attachment, demanding and desperation is the minute you’re going to repel that result you want like citronella, not to mention feel frustrated, frazzled, and seriously resentful in the process.
Practice the art of being committed but not attached. To discern the difference, ask yourself this: How can you show up to the best of your ability in the areas that you can control in order to achieve your goals? You showing up with your best might include writing the posts, doing the mindset work, going live, executing on your strategy.
But the other stuff? How people respond, how many people buy, how many followers you get, how many people open your newsletter? That part is not in your control. The more you can redirect your focus on to the parts you can control, the more empowered and appreciative you’ll feel of the process.
- Cultivate resilience and curiosity
The responsible counterweight to balancing out high expectations is an equally high level of both curiosity and resilience. Resilience and curiosity are the very pillars of a growth mindset. They are what will allow you to emerge from less-than-ideal outcomes with a fresh perspective, constructive knowledge on where and how to improve, and trusted experience.
To cultivate these, ask yourself: what is this experience teaching me? What have I learned here? How can I integrate what I’ve learned into my approach for next time to see an even better outcome? When you get in the habit of asking these kinds of questions, you strengthen the muscle that says you are in this for the long haul. And as any long term commitment, you can expect that will mean you’ll keep growing.