Habits Of Happiness – Expectation Management
Here is an interesting phenomenon. In my experience, people tend to seriously OVER estimate what can be achieved in the short term, and UNDER estimate what can be achieved in the long term.
For example, if you are anything like me you start the day with a To-Do list thinking, yep, I can crack through at least 8 of those things today! Bring it on! I have a vision of crossing things off in a frenzy of activity, getting to the end of the day with a list satisfyingly scored with black lines detailing what has been accomplished. But yet, in reality, I will have a super busy day, and yet only 2 things get crossed off. Some days not even that!
I was bemoaning this fact to my partner. He asked “How was your day”, and I responded “Good, but… I didn’t get done everything I wanted to get done”. “You ALWAYS say that!!!!” he said. “Always”. Irritatingly when I thought about it he was absolutely right. Almost every single day I would be beating myself up about the things I had NOT done. Rather than celebrating the progress on the things I HAD accomplished. I had fallen straight into the trap of overestimating what can be achieved in the short term, and it was sucking a bit of joy out of each (actually pretty damn productive!) day.
When we routinely overestimate what we can achieve in the short term it can create a whole heap of stress and overwhelm. By overestimating just how much can be done in a day we end up beating ourselves up for not being efficient enough. Organised enough. Quick enough. Good enough. It’s actually a pretty tiring pattern.
It’s a good observation, and I know I am not alone. My smart, high achieving, professional clients are usually in the same boat. It’s a good exercise to do a little expectation management on ourselves to reduce stress.
Interestingly this phenomenon seems to go hand in hand with underestimating what we can accomplish in the long term.
We can get so caught up in the frenzy of everyday life that we fail to put our head above the parapet long enough to set some real stretch goals for ourselves, big dreams that can be realised if we plan them properly with a 12-month time frame. Because we are so busy it’s easy to dismiss those dreams as just dreams, or too big to be reached so why bother. Whereas if we put our minds to it and break it down into the tiny steps we discussed last week, that big dream can become a big goal with a deadline that we can actually accomplish if we consciously choose it.
The secret to achieving more of the big stuff and reducing stress with the small stuff is to practice expectation management. Expect a little less of yourself daily, but a little more of yourself long term. It’s a subtle but effective shift in perception that can make a big difference.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What DID I accomplish today? (not what did I NOT do!)
- What are the three things I will accomplish this week come hell or high water? What are my real priorities this week?
- What are three small things I can do this week that will step me towards my long term goals?
Cut yourself a little slack today, know you won’t get everything done on your list that you want to get done, BUT commit to putting into place at least one big, energising blow-your-mind dream that you can steadily move towards over the next 12 months.
You will surprised how much you can reduce the stress today, and increase the accomplishment in tomorrow.