Creating Realistic Expectations
As the new counseling intern at Mosaic Family Counseling Center I am in a constant state of transition and learning. I am spending most of my time in trainings and the orientation process, which isn’t always as clear cut as we think it is going to be. Like many people, I find myself frequently frustrated because I don’t feel confident in what I’m supposed to be doing, or even how it’s done.
As a way of managing our lives, we often set expectations for ourselves and others, but rarely do we take a minute to think about how accurate our expectations are. Instead, we get frustrated with ourselves and those around us when our expectations aren’t met, even if what we expect is unrealistic! Our expectations can be related to a variety of things, from performance and achievement, to behavior or personality. Often we create expectations based upon fantasy rather than reality. Consider the example of starting a new job; would most people like to walk in on the first day knowing everything about the company and how it operates, sufficiently impressing everyone in their path? Of course! However, the reality is that learning something new is a process that we don’t allow ourselves to appreciate because we are too busy measuring ourselves next to John-who-had-all-of-this-figured-out-by-such-and-such-day.
What if we practiced reflecting on creating realistic expectations based on who we are, where we have been and what we have to offer, and doing the same for the people in our life that we create expectations for? A quote from Ram Dass articulates this well:
“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You’re too this, or I’m too this.’ That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”
What if, even just for today, we pledge to think harder about the expectations we create. Practice turning yourself and others into a tree and creating expectations based on how you or the other person “grew.” As you are considering your expectations, think of a tree that is an inch shorter than the tree next to it. Would we expect the short tree to grow an inch in one day because the tree next to it is taller? Probably not. So why do we create these types of expectations for ourselves?
For example, if I were to recreate my expectations for my first weeks at a new job, I wouldn’t expect myself to know everything by the end of week one. If I set my expectations to be consistent with my abilities (knowing that I am human and, of course, humans make mistakes) I will be able to be more confident in my development because I know it is possible to meet my own expectations. And because things are often easier with support I hope that you will join me in turning yourself and others into trees. Let’s take some time to think of how we have grown. What can we do with our abilities?
Hopefully we will all create a little more room to allow who we are, and set our expectations on what we can do instead of what we should do. Imagine how a seemingly small change can impact our daily life! I can’t wait to hear your experience with recreating your expectations, make sure to come back to comment and let us know.
~ Contributed by Kyla Loucks