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Mentoring Article Series #3:

“Unrealistic Expectations”

This is the third factor that causes pain in our life. The second common factor which I have seen many people struggling to cope is the expectations in life. When the setting is tuned too far away from the reality, life can be an extremely painful journey.

“What is Unrealistic Expectation?”
Expectation is what some quoted as “the most likely to happen”, and in Wikipedia, it is simply defined as “a belief that is centered on the future, which may or may not be realistic”. We all have expectations, and we use it in our daily life, during normal daily routines as well as during critical moments. Unrealistic expectations are predictions which we set on ourselves or on others that are not realistic, or in other words, the chances of happening may not be high.

“How is Expectation Being Set?”
According to an internet source’s finding (http://expectation10p.weebly.com/psychology.html), our expectation is set according to the type of people we belong to.

Pessimistic type of people set low expectations. For example, some people set very low expectations in exam, convincing themselves in obtaining only 2 distinctions as the goal whereby in reality, the person has high chances of securing more than 5 distinctions. This behavior is to avoid failure and it consistently making a person feels good, but unfortunately in a less that truthful manner.

Optimistic type of people set high expectation. For example, some people are expecting to get 8 distinctions where in reality, the person may only stand a chance of scoring 5 distinctions. This is intended as a motivational factor to push the person’s performance or achievements to be higher than normal.

“Is Expectation Important to Us?”
Yes, most of the time. When it’s used correctly, it will enable us to fulfil the biggest potential as a human being, therefore accomplishing many great results and successes. But if it’s used inappropriately, it may potentially victimize us and greatly cut down on our quality of life, or simply living a very unhappy life. One of the most powerful effect from expectation is that it affects our mind then follows by behavior and decisions, especially when it’s positive, it gives us that extra boost that make us successful in something we do that otherwise could be a failure.

“What happened When Expectations Are Set Unrealistically?”
Over the years, I have seen many people who have suffered tremendously through unrealistically high expectations. These unrealistically high expectations were imposed on a person by one or more of the following ways:

1. Other people set expectations on us such as our parents, relatives, friends, teachers or professionals, and they tell us that it’s good for us.
2. We set the expectations on ourselves thinking that it’s good for us, without realizing that we are unable to achieve it (for high expectations) or we are over-protecting ourselves (for low expectations), and what makes it worse is when we can’t accept failure (in high expectations) or become demotivated (in low expectations).
3. Influenced by external factors such as some misleading advertisements or news, or marketing related messages such as biased write ups or books in print publications/media or other internet sources.

You may ask: What about low expectations, they are not too bad right? No, they are equally bad too. A person who always sets low expectations will gradually lose the ability to be motivated in life since he/she always achieve the target as expected, and the biggest potential of a person is probably not fulfilled in this way, since it’s always the safest way. The person also tend to lose the ability to work harder or being hardy in facing challenges, since it’s always easy to succeed. Some low expectations are very negative in nature, such as self talk like this: “I can’t do it”, or “I will fail this time.”, etc.

So what is the effect of low expectations?
1. The person may develop false perception (or distorted interpretation) of his/her own abilities (either too good or too poor in it).
2. Can’t withstand any failures since he/she “succeeded” most of the time in completing any tasks.
3. Learn to cheat himself/herself to always find the safest way to do things in avoiding failure, and thus, may subject to greater failure later, and probably won’t be able to recover from it.
4. Unrealistically overconfident, or lack of confidence in handling difficult tasks in life.
5. Some may even become a pessimist who ended up living a painful life, who is too worried to try anything new or accepting new challenges.

“How to Manage Expectation?”
We should always be truthful to ourselves as the first step. This is for us to see the reality part of this world, to see the actual situation and to analyze our conditions with a rational mindset and making sensible decisions. A good expectation is one that slightly exceed our capability with a possible chance of achieving them, and it should be motivating us in accomplishing it. In fact, I would even consider those “Realistic Expectations” that matches their exact abilities as fairly good. However, please also note that there are some people who have “Zero Expectations”, which is not wrong in any way, as the attitude is more of accepting whatever happens (I call them the “happy-go-lucky” attitude), as long as they clearly know what they are doing and happy about it. Getting the opinions from someone who are reliable, unbiased, experienced and observant will be very helpful in the process of eliminating unrealistic expectations, and setting positive expectations.

Using the Optimistic expectation can be useful, even if it’s on an occasional basis. Use it when you feel like challenging yourself to achieve something more than the ordinary result, with the condition that you feel motivated by it. One more thing to note is about “Unspoken Expectation”, which is one of the most destructive type of thinking that affects many people and it destroys relationships. We should pay extra attention to expectations which we set on others, and those that may be set on us by others, which are not clearly or officially expressed where those affected by it are never informed. The best is to voice it out and everyone knows what to expect.

The final point is: everyone’s expectation is different on how they set them and how they face them. But one thing I do know is that we should have a proper attitude in managing our mind in accepting the outcome, whether it’s good or bad. And I do agree to some professional’s saying that we shouldn’t set our expectations too high. In fact, sometimes setting slightly low expectations may not be too harmful, as long as it’s used positively as a way to motivate us back on track. To know what’s the best expectations for us, is to first understand ourselves.

[Photo’s Title: ”Sunrise“] Sunrise, always give us hope. Positive expectations, and smart application of expectations give us hope to live a happy life.

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