Is Your Idea of “Winning” Expecting Too Much?

I’ve noticed in my coaching lately that a lot of conversations have come up surrounding the concept of high expectations.

There’s nothing wrong with high expectations. In fact, setting the bar high usually means that we get more done than we thought we could.

There is an issue, however, with unrealistic high expectations; that self-asserted pressure that something you’ve set out to do must absolutely be executed or accomplished completely or to a certain level, and if that doesn’t happen, then you’re a failure. It’s a black and white approach that essentially states an all-or-nothing acceptance. If you fulfill your expectations, fine. And if you come up short, then nothing you did matters.

The problem with this, of course, is that you probably did a lot of good things, maybe even great things, attempting to fulfill those expectations. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

Your goal was to work out every day this week. You worked out four times.

Your goal was to eat only healthy foods this week. You ate some things that aren’t so great for you a few times.

Your goal was to write an article today. You got an outline done and half of the article written.

Your goal was to practice for an hour every day this week. You practiced every day, but only for a half hour each day.

Your goal was to clean the house today. You managed to vacuum and get some papers filed.

In each of these examples, a goal was established. And if you decided to do something like one of these and you hadn’t been building up to it at all, then these would be high expectations. Changing your schedule from not doing a certain habit to doing it every day or all at once is a big step.

You’ll also notice that in each of these examples, there were steps taken toward the goal. That’s awesome! But so often, those parts are ignored. Instead of giving yourself credit for the four days you worked out, you criticize yourself for not working out every day…

If you’ve ever put some good effort into something, just to be told ONLY what you did wrong, you know what I’m talking about. It’s deflating. Sure, we want to know how to improve, but when we only notice our shortcomings, eventually (if not right away) we begin to wonder what the point of trying is.

I recently read a white paper by Tim Ferris, who is probably most famously known as the author of The 4-Hour Work Week. The article was on rituals he likes as part of his morning routine, and credits these as what he does to help himself “win the day.” Ferris says that if he starts his morning off right, this sets up how the rest of his day will go. Ferris mentions five rituals that he aims to accomplish each morning.

Two things about this article really stood out to me:

1. Ferris states that if he manages to accomplish 3 of the 5 rituals, he’s “won the morning”

2. He says, “I’ve deliberately set a low bar for ‘win’”

There’s a lot of hype about taking action – motivational talks, videos, articles, and programs, all urging you to make it happen! And that is absolutely essential, but so is how you make it happen.

Big, lofty goals are ok – that’s how big things get accomplished! But how about leaving your expectations at the door? Get excited about the possibility, and then see what your mind and body’s thresholds are. See where you need a little extra time or motivation. See where you might need to break things down into smaller goals.

Next time you set out to create a new habit or accomplish a new goal, set the insistence of high expectations aside. See what happens. Give yourself credit for what you could do, and then perhaps you’ll feel excited to try to do a bit more.

When you allow yourself to stay in a discovery-like phase as you attempt your goals, it allows you to create an individualized version of what is successful for you.

Essentially, the whole idea is to move forward – perhaps moving in the direction of your goal is a better definition of winning than 100% fulfillment. 70% of something is still moving forward.

1% of something is moving forward. 🙂

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