Are Your Expectations Hindering Your Success?

In the entrepreneurial world, we talk a lot about vision: our vision of what success looks like, our vision of what we want our businesses to become, our vision of what our lives should be. Vision is an essential tool for success, however people often confuse vision and expectation for being one and the same. They are not.

As human beings, we have this innate tendency to establish expectations for everything.

We place expectations on what our careers should look like.

On what success should look like.

On what our bodies should look like.

On what our groups of friends should look like.

On what type of friend we should be.

On what type of man/woman we should be seen with.

On what type of man/woman we should be for our significant others.

On what type of personality we should be described as - what type of mold we should fit ourselves into.

Vision is the positive side of this spectrum that can be translated as goals, standards, or daydreams. They help us to craft our careers and life paths. However, when we shift to the darker side of the spectrum... the side in which we feel the need to maintain absolute control, we transition to the realm of expectation. This can also be translated as attachment. The key is to recognize when we are holding onto vision to help us push through challenging situations vs. when we are being so attached to a specific egoistic outcome that we are putting blinders on, thus becoming oblivious to new and better opportunities.

To compare… Placing a career vision like, “I want to work hard and move into upper management. I want to grow my strengths and skills and push myself to earn a position that will help me do this. I want to be able to lead others and help the company I’m working for grow.” This is something that could be defined as a goal in a positive light. It's purpose-driven and it's about developing strength and character... it's not so much about needing one specific outcome to happen. It is more like saying, "Let's head north," rather than "The north pole is the one and only acceptable destination."

In contrast, placing a similar expectation from a place of insecurity: “I need to be in upper management and I refuse to take a lesser position, regardless of its possible benefits, because I need to feel superior. I am a leader, not a follower, and I don’t want people telling me what to do. I’m too good for that lesser position,” is more about attachment to a certain outcome as a way to define one’s identity.

Now let's assume that both persons mentioned above had applied for a leadership position at the same company. Both are, instead, offered a subordinate position. Let's pretend the person in the former example is open-minded enough to research this position despite it not being their original selection. After their research, they realize that the subordinate position actually offers much more room for growth and opportunity to learn whereas the original leadership position consisted mostly on giving reports about the team's progress each week with little room for learning or growth. The candidate in our latter example, however, immediately snubbed their nose at the possibility of the subordinate position and walked away from the company offended. They missed out on a really excellent opportunity by wearing these blinders.

Ever notice how people seem to get really excited about taking personality tests? This is because we are all looking for ways to define ourselves. Our egos attach themselves to certain terms and descriptions as a way to feel defined, powerful, and special. If we feel like we don’t have an identity, we allow our power to slip through our fingers.

So how do we determine the difference in ourselves? Notice how you identify yourself, respect it, but don’t hold onto it. Don’t let it define you. Most, if not all, of these identity descriptions will only be temporary during the span of your life.  Just because an elderly man retires from his long career as a renowned attorney, does not mean he ceases to exist. There is nothing less special about him because he is no longer a lawyer. However, because he has attached the role of “renowned attorney” to his identity for so long, he now finds himself depressed because he no longer knows how to define himself. He was so attached to his career, that he feels as though his entire existence has been stripped from him. It hasn’t though, this is just how he is perceiving it. This is often seen in veterans as well. After getting out of the service, many vets have difficulty figuring out how to identify themselves anymore. They aren't sure where they fit into civilian society because they still have their identity tied to their military careers. Often, this leads to depression as they don't know where to place their value anymore, not realizing that their value was always within them and not tied to their career at all. The same characteristics that made them great soldiers/marines/etc are the characteristics that have always made them great men and women, the external circumstance is merely different.

In relationships (platonic or romantic), attachments to specific desired outcomes lead to pain. When we place expectations on how another person should act, respond, etc., we often become disappointed. No two people ever live their lives by the exact same rules so someone is always bound to dislike the other person’s choices and actions at times. When we feel that, “He should have done this for me,” or “She shouldn’t have said that to me,” we end up causing ourselves and the other person distress simply because of our own expectations of the situation. However, if we can stop attaching to specific outcomes and instead put ourselves in the other person’s shoes for that moment, we can release a lot of pain and tension from our friendships, work relationships, family affairs, and romantic relationships. Let things go and find that stress disappears along with it. I should also note that there is a fine line between letting things go and standing up for yourself... That is a balance that you must define for yourself.

What expectations and attachments might you be holding onto a little too tightly in your life? Are you allowing room for change, room for the unknown, room for unseen opportunity? Perhaps you're currently going through a transition period and several large opportunities are knocking that you've been oblivious to. Stay open-minded and see what comes in... you may be pleasantly surprised.