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!Join the Conversation
I wasn’t happy most of my life. I worried about what what other people thought of me. I attached my well-being to other people’s behavior. I was troubled by my thoughts and feelings. I worked hard every day to be perfect, to be worthy, to be whole.
I wanted a better life yet I believed I wouldn’t be happy until… until I got someone else to approve of me… until someone else behaved the way I wanted them to behave… until I achieved some certain status such as marriage or promotion… until I overcame all my shortcomings and became the most caring, most compassionate, most helpful, smartest, most successful person I could be… until life got good.
I didn’t experience true happiness until I starting living and loving the life I have- not the life I wanted, the life I dreamed of, the life I wish I had- the life I have. Right now, today.
Sure, there were things I wanted to change. There were things I needed to change. I’m always reaching, growing, and changing for the better. But my happiness doesn’t come from the future- it’s right here, now.
To achieve the life I wanted I had to start living and loving the life I have today. The more I allowed myself to relax and enjoy each day, the more I enjoyed life and the more progress I made on the things I did want to change. It’s funny how it works that way.
I invite you to live and love the life you have today.
Let go of judgements and expectations. Stop waiting for everything to work out. Accept yourself as you are- perfectly imperfect.
Embrace all of life’s gifts- big and small. Be joyful for the sake of being joyful- not because something good happened. Celebrate your life- celebrate you!
It’s simple, really, even if just for a day, an hour, or a minute- be in love with your life just as it is today.
I love your comments! What will it take for you to be in the love with your life today? What’s holding you back that you will let go? How will you relax into this day instead of struggling against it?Join the Conversation
Coming off a “down” last week, I was struck by the beauty of life.
Faced with a difficult family situation I was overcome with sadness, frustration, and anger. I struggled with the situation for several days, on the edge of tears much of the time. After several difficult days I found a renewed sense of purpose and motivation in my pursuit of living my best life- the purpose of being on this journey and writing this blog.
Before this recent challenge, I had been feeling just a little complacent, as sometimes happens when things are going smoothly. I was doing a lot of the right things without thinking much about it. What I was doing was fine, but I wasn’t truly engaged in my life. This “down” gave me the kick in the butt I needed to embrace my life and reminded me why it’s important to me.
Without sadness I couldn’t feel joy. Without pain I wouldn’t feel pleasure. It is the shifting notes that create music out of sound, and the ups and downs we experience create the beauty in life.
There is no permanence in life and it is the varied experiences, emotions, and perceptions that create life’s music. If I feel happy I will enjoy it for as long as it lasts. If I feel sad I will honor my sadness but not despair because I know I will be happy again, and I know some moments of sadness are necessary to fully appreciate happiness whenever I create it.
“Life is full of ups and downs, so put your hands in the air and enjoy the ride.” ~Anonymous
How to Find Beauty in Life’s Ups and Downs
Enjoy the good times
Do you really enjoy the good times as they happen and not just when you look back on them? Be present and truly enjoy all the wonders of this life and the good times will help carry you through the bad.
Seek comfort in difficult times
You don’t have to go through it alone, so don’t.
Take care of yourself
In good times and bad, take good care of yourself. Becoming mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy makes the best of good days and gives you strength on bad days.
Be as happy as possible
Stop waiting for life to get good to be happy, be happy and life will be good.
Always be kind- always
Be kind to yourself and others. Kindness has magical powers that ease discomfort and pain.
Don’t believe everything you feel
Haven’t you ever felt fear watching a scary movie even though you’re not in danger? Your feelings alone do not make life good or bad, they’re just a small part of the experience.
Don’t believe everything you think
Observe your thoughts without attaching yourself to every thought. Adjust your thinking when necessary.
Be open to the opportunities presented to you
Life is full of wonderful opportunities and all too often these opportunities are missed because you’re looking too hard at just one possible outcome- be open to all the possible outcomes.
It’s nearly impossible to be grateful and sad at the same time, and gratitude is a key ingredient in happiness. Remember, there’s always something to be grateful for.
Live life on life’s terms
Stop basing your well-being on how things work out. Do your best with what you have and life will work out a whole lot better (and you’ll feel less disappointment, too.)
Sometimes you just have to let go or be dragged. Which do you prefer?Join the Conversation
I’m going through a rough patch in my personal life right now, dealing with a family crisis. Life has it’s ups and downs and while I’m fortunate to have more ups than downs these days, I still have to get through the downs. With healthy habits, a sense of self-worth, and a good support network I know I’ll get through this rough patch, hopefully with some amount of kindness and grace.
During this time the rest of my life continues on as if nothing has happened. I have the same commitments, needs, and goals as I had before the crisis started, but as a result of dealing with the crisis I have fewer resources to deal with it. As usual, it’s time to get back to basics and practice self-care. Self-care, check.
As I procrastinated writing this week’s blog post I thought about the things I intend to do, and the things I want to do, versus doing what I really need to do- rest and renew my personal resources.
I intended to sit down and write but the words wouldn’t come. As I struggled to get started, I thought about skipping this week’s post. When I was just about ready to give up I decided to write about what I’m going through- to inspire and encourage myself and my experience, and to inspire and encourage you, for surely you’ve gone through a rough patch, too.
With that in mind, here are some inspiring and encouraging words I saved for a rainy day that just happens to be today.
Thanks for joining me on this wonderful and beautiful, sometimes difficult and scary, journey called life! Will you dance with me in the rain?Join the Conversation
Does your job keep you up at night? Do you work too hard? Do you care too much? Yeah, I’ve been there.
I’ve always been a little too serious with a highly developed sense of responsibility. This trait carried over into my work in a serious way. I tried to do it all and rarely said no. I stressed myself to the point it started to affect my health. After several significant illnesses I realized something had to give- my body already was.
I made a conscious choice to stop taking work too seriously. I had to give up my inflated sense of responsibility and importance. I had to make mistakes, have fun, let go, and simply be happier at work!
What did it take to stop taking work so seriously?
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I am virtually unable to be happy and stressed (or angry, or sad) at the same time. Focusing on being happy meant I felt less stress and was less likely to take every little thing that happened during the day to heart.
Being happy is easier than I thought once I stopped thinking happiness comes from the outside instead of the inside.
Be responsible for me and me only
As a manager I thought my employee’s performance was ultimately my problem. I tried directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating. If an employee didn’t live up to my expectations I was sure I was the one that failed. I made myself crazy and undoubtedly make other people a little crazy, too.
I cannot control what anyone else thinks, says, or does- that’s up to them! I can be responsible for me and me only.
Be a team player
I not only took on responsibility for my employees and co-workers, I took on responsibility for the overall business success but one player alone cannot win or lose the game. The more responsibility I accepted, the more serious I was about my work.
Seeing myself as part of the team helped me give up some of my responsibility and share it. Plus, it’s just more fun to work with others!
Ask for help
If a job was assigned to me well then I was going to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Only it turns out whatever it takes sometimes meant working myself sick. Yeah, that’s no good.
Work is less overwhelming when it’s shared so I started asking for help. The best part of asking for help wasn’t even the help I received, but the relationships I improved with the people that worked with me.
Not only did I say yes to just about every request, I volunteered to take on more without even being asked! I’m sure it’s no surprise to you I was overburdened, overworked and over-serious!
I started to say no, not only to others, but to my desire to be helpful to others all the time.
My fear of mistakes was one of the main reasons I took work too seriously- what if I screwed up? I still made mistakes and I was seriously stressed out every time I did.
When I began to accept and even embrace mistakes I stopped stressing myself out and started having more fun with my work.
Do my best and forget the rest
All I can do is my best today, and nothing more. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks of me, or expects of me. It doesn’t really matter what I think or expect from myself!
Since I don”t control what happens next, I’ve found it easier to focus on just doing my part. In the end all I can really do is my best.
The more I focused on goals, results, and achievements, the more seriously I took my work. I gave all of myself today for a presumed future win but it was like planting spring seeds and not watering them- with my mind always on tomorrow I wasn’t making the most of today.
Focusing on simply doing my best work for this day only made today a whole lot happier and yielded better results.
Believe in myself
Another reason I took work so seriously was because I worried what might happen if I lost my job. I tended towards worst-case-scenario thinking and imagined myself becoming homeless and living on the street. While losing everything was a possibility, it wasn’t very likely to happen. I needed to believe in myself.
I am a competent, smart, and resourceful person. When I was laid off I bounced back just fine. I didn’t end up homeless. Was losing my job difficult?- hell yeah, it was- but I got through it. Whatever happens, I’ll face it. I can do this!
If there was one underlying reason I was too serious about my work it’s because I was constantly assigning either positive or, most of the time, negative value to everyone and everything that happened at work.
Instead of doing my best with what’s in front of me I lamented and complained over every perceived injustice. I made myself miserable! I had to stop blaming everyone and everything to find some peace in my work and my life.Join the Conversation