HOW TO MANAGE Your Expectations

My new article on Maria Shriver’s The Women’s Conference:

Over the years, one thing I’ve slowly, painfully, learned is the importance of distinguishing between someone letting me down and my assumptions about that person letting me down. The breakdown comes when I assume that the other person knows exactly what I need – without my ever having communicated it to them. The result is often an internal, or external, conversation along the lines of, “Well of course I thought you would do X/it never occurred to me you would do Y.” Later lucidity enables me to see that 1.) I am not the supreme commander of the universe (often as I think I should be) and 2.) people can’t read my mind.

It’s possible you’ve found yourself in a similar situation.

One of the cascade effects of an inability to make the distinction between when people actually let you down and when you haven’t given them the information they need to support you is a general sensation that since everyone is going to let you down, it’s easier to have no expectations – of them or of yourself — whatsoever. This construct generally ends with our talking ourselves out of doing anything—if we don’t try, we can’t fail. Therefore we will never be let down.

The trouble with this particular approach is that we stop managing those elements that actually are within our control. And when this particular element of managing goes out the window, and consequently we do fail, we provide ourselves with further evidence for the need to keep our expectations low.

I’m here to say, Stop the cycle. Manage your expectations; don’t allow them to manage you.

What does this look like? In my experience, it’s very helpful to write down every single thing necessary to accomplish my goal, and then ask myself what I – not others — need to do to ensure these things happen. If others’ contributions are integral to my success, have I stated the exact nature of my needs to them, and asked what they might need from me to accomplish these things?

As has been noted, despite Hollywood’s obsession with ‘soul mates’ whose love ensures we never again have to articulate our goals and dreams, no one will ever be able to read your mind—not your parent, not your partner, not your boss, not your assistant. It’s up to you to manage your expectations of others, and meet your own. And every time you do, you’ll find you can set your own bar a bit higher.