“The sky is the limit.”
“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
These were the kind of credo and life philosophy that my generation of millennials grew up listening to. We are one of the first generations that were raised to believe that our fate is not limited by our external circumstances and that we have the power to become whoever we want be, if we believe in ourselves and if we are willing to put in the work to realize our hopes and dreams.
This perspective is in stark contrast to the risk-averse attitude of the World War era generations whose sole objective in life is survival. For them, success is associated with having the financial means to put food on the table and a roof above their heads. Many of us have parents and grandparents who still have this outlook on life because they grew up in unstable and harsh political and economic conditions.
If you are a millennial, you should be grateful to be part of an era of freedom and independence. Millennials are driven, resourceful, entrepreneurial, technology-savvy, willing to take chances and experiment. We are dreamers, innovators and pioneers with the creative prowess and business acumen that built empires of the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and several other successful startups.
Like anything else in life, this fired-up orientation towards life has its downsides as well. I recently read an article in an insightful blog about why generation Y has become one of the most dissatisfied generations because of their heavily ambitious streak. The writer believes that their disappointment and restlessness is due to their sense of entitlement and unusually high expectations, which often go unmet.
Gen Ys tend to have loftier expectations about the outcomes of their efforts and they expect to reap the rewards much faster than what is realistically possible. The article states that these high expectations, coupled with feelings of being special, can mess them up on an emotional level when they realize that their reality cannot match their expectations without hard work, diligence and patience.
While I think that the writer does make some valid points on this issue, I personally don’t believe that the best solution to this dilemma is to lower one’s expectations and settle for a mediocre and safe path as a way to avoid feelings of loss and bitterness. I feel that all of us must claim our right to dream big, as long as we understand that with great expectations comes the great responsibility to self-manage.
The key is to find that sweet spot of setting expectations that are challenging, but aren’t so high that they seem unreachable and unrealistic. Becoming too risk-averse will inhibit us from taking the bold steps needed to move forward. On the other hand, setting expectations that are too high can be de-motivating. Achieving this balance in setting expectations is an art that can be learnt over time.
There’s absolutely no harm in setting high standards for our life if it can fuel us with the right emotions that give us the drive and courage needed to live up to those standards. It’s been proven time and again that the people who expect the best out of life tend to attract more good fortune into their world, compared to those who take on a more cautious approach towards living.
If you are the type of person who is aiming to achieve considerable feats during your journey, you should be prepared to put in higher than average levels of grit, energy, heart and effort. You also have to build an emotional shield that will protect you from getting easily bruised, and mental buffers that will ensure that you don’t drift off into a world of fantasies that can’t be grounded in reality.
These points are further elaborated in this 3-step process for setting healthy expectations for your life:
- Be aware of your thoughts: All the expectations that we set forth for our lives are products of our foundational beliefs. There are subconscious thought patterns that we have developed over the years, which we may not be aware of, that are affecting how we set our expectations. For example, if you grew up in a negative and toxic environment at home, you might either walk down a mediocre path or use your past to motivate you into becoming a person of substance. Whatever we have been exposed to can either lead us towards progress or derail us, depending on how we relate to it. For this reason, we should be cognizant of how our upbringing and experiences could be coloring the lens through which we view life’s events. Work on your thoughts and beliefs because they are at the root of everything you experience.
- Take an honest look at your current situation and capabilities: Before we can embark on our quest to fulfill our big dreams, we need to take an honest assessment of where we are right now in our present circumstances and we also need to evaluate our inventory of our skills, capabilities, experience and resources. If our goal is to one day become an astronaut for NASA but we are currently working as an accountant, we have to acknowledge where we are so that we can map out what we need to do to reach our desired destination. If we refuse to face the reality of our current situation and turn a blind eye to any potential challenges, we will be setting ourselves up for imminent disappointment and failure.
- Manage your emotional health: The road to success requires emotional maturity and resilience. We need to be strong enough to deal with all the criticism, haters, obstacles and failure that come with the territory of playing a bigger game in life. The reason why some experts recommend playing it safe is because of the potentially detrimental psychological impact of dealing with unmet expectations, but if we can consciously work towards building our inner strength and a character that can withstand the storms and leap over hurdles, we will have what it takes to attain our vision. We have to cultivate traits such as resourcefulness, flexibility, persistence, consistency and a willingness to accept delayed gratification. Some of the ways that this can be inculcated within us is through reading inspiring books, speaking with mentors and coaches, and engaging in deep self-reflection exercises.
Just like a paraglider, we have to be willing to step over the edge of a cliff right before taking flight. We need to have faith that the winds will carry us high enough so that we can fly over majestic vistas. Build the sturdiest wings so that you can soar high and enjoy some of the best views that life has to offer!
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What are some steps that you’re willing to take in your efforts towards cultivating healthy expectations for your life?
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