"Transform lofty expectations into realistic standards," Andrew Carruthers says.

"Transform lofty expectations into realistic standards," Andrew Carruthers says. 

There was a time when the statement “I have high expectations” was used with a sense of pride. Now, when I hear these words from my coaching clients, it usually is in reference to why they are suffering or why their relationships with their staff, friends, or partners are strained.

It’s not that having a level of standards is bad… in fact, it’s vital to know what we are willing to accept from ourselves and from others. What becomes unsupportive and downright painful is when those standards become inflated and perfectionistic. And, even if those standards are realistic, if they are not clearly communicated they become expectations that are ripe for disappointment.

Our concepts of expectation are subconsciously learned first from our parents, friends and local communities. Then as we grow up, we add the influence of global voices from news, TV, movies, and social media which are often heavily edited and idealistic.

We are bombarded with memes and oversimplified statements of how we should be more, do more, and expect more. In this current state of our world, it’s very easy to see how our expectations have turned into monster-sized mountains that have no real summit.

So, what do we do??? We can’t just have zero expectations, right?

Here are a few suggestions to try on:

1. Transform the lofty expectations into realistic standards. Become aware of the areas that we are consistently “letting ourselves down” or others seem to always miss the mark. This is potentially an area that we have built expectations that are unachievable. So, reset the marker to a standard that still feels integral AND gives more space for reality.

2. Start being clear about these standards and make agreements. If we make agreements with each other, then we can hold each other to our word instead of invisible expectations.

3. When standards and agreements are not met, offer some grace to yourself and to others… remember we are all just human and the nature of humans is imperfection. And no, this isn’t lowering our standards, it’s simply lowering the amount of negative energy we give to these moments and accepting the reality of human nature.

4. Check in with who and what is influencing your expectations. Are you possibly spending too much time following influencers who paint a perfectionistic picture of life, body image, etc… and comparing yourself to them? Are you listening to the advice of others who also tend to suffer from unrealistic expectations? Perhaps it’s time to reset the circle of influence with healthier resources!

The time you're feeling frustrated or disappointed in yourself or others, take a step back and truly ask if overinflated expectations are at work within your mind. Here's the undeniable truth...life is messy and unpredictable, people are human, and the sooner we accept this truth, the happier we will be. 

Andrew Carruthers shares tips for wellbeing every week during Wellness Wednesday, see full calendar.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.