I’ve heard it said that expectations are premeditated resentments. I believe much of life’s discomfort and unhappiness happens in the space between expectations and reality- especially in the workplace.
This week I got a call from a friend who was struggling at work. Things weren’t working out as she expected and as a result she found herself stuck in a spiral of jealousy, negative thinking, and comparing. It was no surprise to me that I’m the one she called for insight as I’ve found myself in the same mindset.
We bring our expectations to work with us every day. We may expect our hard work will be rewarded with a promotion or raise and experience frustration if we don’t feel we were adequately rewarded. We may have high expectations of ourselves and we take on more than we can handle. We may expect our co-workers to behave in a certain way and get annoyed with their entirely human foibles.
When we let our expectations define our experience, we’re far more likely to be disappointed, unhappy, and we begin to resent those around us. Often the situation is not as bad as we think it is, it’s just different than our expectations.
I’ve found positive and negative expectations are equally harmful to my happiness. When my expectations are high I’m likely to be disappointed if things don’t work out the way I expect them to. When my expectations are low I’m likely to experience exactly what I expect and feel somewhat justified but ultimately unhappy.
Like all things in life, the key is balance. To be successful and happy at work we must manage our expectations.
How to manage expectations in the workplace
Image courtesy of blumpy
Check your expectations
When you find yourself feeling frustrated, angry, resentful, or disappointed check your expectations. Instead of focusing your thoughts and emotions on the situation or individuals, check your expectations and see if they are the real source of your discomfort. If so, there are positive steps you can take to improve your experience!
Adjust your expectations
Are your expectations realistic? Sometimes our expectations are influenced by what we want instead of reality. Are you expecting someone to do something they aren’t capable of doing- yourself included? Do you expect a particular outcome that involves the participation of multiple unrelated individuals? You can adjust your expectations if you realize most things are out of your control (or anyone else’s!).
Ask for it!
Often we expect people to behave a certain way and we take for granted they know what we want or need to help us be successful. The truth is most of us are putting 90% of our energy into managing our own day and even when we try to assist others, we don’t really know what they want, need, or expect of us. Ask for what you want (and be specific!) and you’re more likely to get it.
You and you alone are responsible for your happiness. You are responsible for your life and your experience. You can avoid disappointment by taking responsibility for your expectations. So someone else didn’t meet your expectations- so what? What are you going to make your own life great today?
Things aren’t always going to go your way- I’m sure you know that by now. You can improve your experience by accepting that sometimes you’ll be disappointed and that’s okay. Someone will make a mistake- maybe it will be you. Sometimes you’ll fail and get back up again. Disappointment is just another experience in life. If you wallow in disappointment it will bring you down- accept it and move on.
Work in the moment
Expectations are all about outcomes- the results we hope to achieve. What if you shifted your focus from the outcome to the simply doing your best in the moment? I’m a lot happier at work when I focus on what I am doing in the moment instead of what happened before or what I want to happen next. In this moment, right now, I can be great at what I’m doing and that’s all that really matters.
Live and love life on life’s terms
Chances are there’s a lot of good stuff in your life. Okay, so you have some legitimate complaints and maybe some stuff that needs change, but at some point in life you have to stop and just live the life you have. Let go of your expectations and just enjoy life- faults and all!