Someone once told me they didn’t want to go after their dream because they were afraid of a self-imposed expectation. They didn’t want to create the assumption that they should be making a change. They didn’t want to face that kind of intense pressure from themselves or others.
What this person really wants is a life aligned with personal value. It is not an expectation. There is a difference between personal value and expectation. An expectation is metric, it is performance driven, whereas personal value is what is important to us. Personal values are the things near and dear to our hearts.
They are part of who we are. For example, say you knew someone battling with breast cancer and breast cancer awareness has become an important issue for you. It has become part of your personal values. You can participate in a breast cancer fundraiser, and even set a goal to raise a certain amount. You don’t need to set this as an expectation and kick yourself if you don’t meet the goal. You are not expected to cure breast cancer. You value the cause. It is an important and deeply personal part of your life.
Everyone has a personal value and aligning your life with that value helps you to feel “alive” and to motivate you to do certain things. Maybe your personal value is physical fitness. You value your health and well being so you decide to walk to the store, you are not setting the expectation that you will run a marathon.
What are some of your personal values?
Before you go to a party, leave the house, or get out of the bed in the morning you probably have some kind of expectation about the experience. You have a predetermined notion in your brain of how things will play out, how the day will go, what you will do, how much fun you will have at the party, how much traffic there will be on the way to work, etc. Most of us have a general idea of how long it will take to get somewhere, or how things should go when we get there.
The problem comes when things don’t go the way we expect. We become unhappy, stressed because things aren’t working out the way we had planned in our brain. Happiness is reality divided by expectation. We don’t really know how things will go but because we have a pre-formed expectation we tend to feel the unhappiness of disappointment when things go a different way.
That is not to say we should lower expectations in order to be happier. If we always expect the worst that is not a very fun way to live either. So rather than thinking in one line, it is better to think in a range. What I am referring to is the RTM Formula — Reach-Target-Minimum. Reach is a high but realistic expectation, target is an area that is reasonable, and minimum is the least to meet. If you begin to think in these realistic terms then you will be able to move forward in life with more acceptance of the way things turn out — whether higher or lower than expected.
I frequently say you have control of your happiness, because you really do. You have the ability to change the way you think about things before you go into them. You have the ability to come to terms with a new reality and open your mind to new possibilities.