The Expectation Gap: Set Yourself Up for Success

Recently I’ve come to realize how much disappointment is caused by our own faulty expectations. Without setting realistic expectations for ourselves and our people, we miss out on success. (Image:

We’re wired to expect the world to be brighter and more meaningful and more obviously interesting than it actually is. And when we realize that it isn’t, we start looking around for the real world.Lev Grossman, The Magicians

A recent New York Times article points out that the way we manage our expectations heavily influences our ability to experience happiness in life and work. Several studies of medical interventions demonstrate how patient expectations can affect health outcomes.

In the work I do coaching and helping people, I hear about disappointments all the time. Rarely do people come into executive coaching with realistic expectations. They’ve either set the bar too high or not high enough.

We set expectations all the time: for ourselves, coworkers, family members, items we buy and even the movies we see. Our internal mindset relentlessly measures performance against our assumptions and expectations.

Expectations have a profound effect on our energy and drive. There are two variables in the equation: what we expect from others and what we expect from ourselves. How we view our experiences is critical to the way we pursue our goals and achieve success.

Happiness cannot be achieved without expectations, but our beliefs must be based on an achievable reality. Your daily happiness level can ultimately be measured by the number of expectations you meet.

Unrealistic expectations create an expectation gap, according to James P. Leahy, author of Bridging the Expectation Gap: The Key to Happiness. This gap leads to unhappiness and feelings of failure.

If you’ve fallen into an expectation gap, maybe it’s time for an expectation adjustment. First, take an inventory of all the expectations in your daily life that aren’t usually met. Then make an adjusted list of what’s realistic. Be sure to clarify what success looks like. Include stretch goals, but be reasonable. Set yourself up for success rather than disappointment.

I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment.

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