Anytime I am about to start something new, the voice in my head says “manage your expectations”. This was my way of being in control as I tend to be overly cautious of being let down or sometimes even get agitated when things don’t go in a certain way because my expectations were unmet.
Over the years, I have also come to realize that some of my expectations of others were often set based on my standards and without conferring with the other party. I realized that in other to manage expectations, I have to consider not just the “how” but also the “why”.
Why should you manage your expectations? The simple answer to the question of “Why” is to eliminate anxiety. But how should you manage your expectations?
Your expectations are your strong hopes that something will happen in a certain way or that you will get what you wish/hope for. But how do you deal with this if it doesn’t happen the way you expected it would?
What Does It Mean To Manage Expectations?
Managing expectation is a phrase that means: “to prevent disappointment by determining what can realistically be achieved or delivered by a course of action”. Managing expectations can be yours or someone else’s expectation of you. It could be a relationship or a work-related one. When set expectations are not met, it could lead to unhappiness, distrust, stress and ultimately, disappointment. But when outlined realistically, negative outcomes can be less undesirable and better handled.
There are three (3) expectations that I have come to recognize as essential and should be managed to avoid miscommunication, over-expectation, or misunderstanding.
1. Your Expectations of You.
People often set standards for themselves – low, medium or high. Setting expectations is good as long as they are realistic. They help to motivate you to push yourself towards succeeding at something. However, setting too high expectations can lead to mental, social, or physical struggles if /when they are not met. Having an internal dialogue with yourself to layout and prioritize your expectations is important. Be mindful of the frustration that may arise when some things do not go as intended. When expectations are not met, try having a constructive outlook about it. Approach it as an opportunity to reevaluate and make adjustments where necessary.
2. Your Expectations From People.
What happens when you expect people to do things in a certain way and they fail? How do you measure other people’s capacity to deliver on the standards you have set? In reality, it is difficult to get everyone to satisfy your every need or meet your every expectation. By trying to be accepting of others and seeing things from their point of view, it is possible to measure their ability to deliver based on their capacity and limitations. To avoid being disappointed, you need to communicate your expectations and be ready to make some exceptions where necessary.
3. People’s Expectations of you.
Inferred expectations are the most unsatisfactory. Sometimes people will communicate what their expectations are to you, sometimes they will not and still expect you to fulfil them. Regardless, you will not always be able to meet people’s expectations and yes, satisfying everyone is impossible. You can however confidently and successfully recondition your realities by freeing yourself from what others expect of you. For this to happen, you will need to be straightforward with others by saying yes to yourself and no to them. Access your priorities and ask yourself, how best can I balance what I can deliver with what others expect of me. Once you arrive at a practical answer, communicate it openly so that no one is over-expecting or over-labouring.
To effectively manage your expectations, you need to internalize your anticipations, reaccess them, and communicate openly.
4 Pointers to Help Manage Expectations
- Commit to doing things not only to exceed expectations but to deliver favourable outcomes for you and others. Do not be lackadaisical about tasks or responsibilities and always consider the benefits of meeting expectations.
- Avoid being unhappy, angry or disappointed, by refraining from setting unrealistically high expectations. Ensure that your expectations and what is achievable are aligned.
- Acknowledge that expectations can sometimes be unmet. It is not unreasonable to accept that people will not necessarily execute things exactly the way you want them to (neither will you) and that is okay.
- Deal with disappointments by anticipating occasional lapses. Then seize the opportunity to reset and plan. Accept that mistakes or failures are only part of your life’s journey, they should not completely diminish your confidence in yourself or others.
- Bonus Point: Take care of your mental, physical, social, and emotional space by freeing yourself of the tension that comes with unmet expectations.
Life can be very unpredictable and unexpected things sometimes spring along – making us adjust accordingly to such realities. Having unmet expectations can be frustrating but with an open mind, the pressure of meeting set or inferred expectations can be managed.
By anticipating possible outcomes to situations, you learn to manage your expectations. And by managing your expectations, you control how the outcome affects you.
I believe there is a strategy to managing expectations, and that is dialogue. Internal dialogue with oneself and straightforward conversation with others will help to suppress the disappointment that might arise from not meeting up with expectations.