This may sound like the advice of a low achiever or someone with no goals or aspirations. Anyone who knows me can tell you, that is not who I am. I have always been competitive. My grades mattered to me, as did the college I got accepted into, the jobs I had, my career path, promotions, awards, accolades, etc.
So, that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that I have always had high expectations of, well, everything! When you have a personality like that, chances are you’re going to be disappointed. People disappoint, family disappoints, friends disappoint, bosses disappoint, situations disappoint. I know this full well and, yet, I continue to set the stage with a script written for perfection.
My husband, on the other hand, has always set the bar low, so that he rarely is disappointed. If you aim low, you’ll never be crushed when things don’t turn out the way you thought they would! Do I want to be like my husband-no, definitely not!
As a follow-up to my “Mrs. Grossman, Is That You?” post of a few months back, my very dear friend Paula (the one I hadn’t seen since I was 7) followed through and arranged for a dinner with our 2nd grade teacher and her husband. She had been planning this get together since she first made contact with Mrs. Grossman over the phone several months back.
Think about it… Mrs. Grossman was a woman she admired, looked up to, modeled her career after, who was now in her early 80’s. She had been a young woman of 22 when she taught our class on the Upper West side of Manhattan. Paula had built up such high expectations of what this meeting would be like– the emotions that would be flowing, the warmth of connection and memories from an innocent child’s perspective. Well, the evening was enjoyable, but it was a let down. How could it be anything but, with expectations so unrealistically high?
I have always set the bar high – so I totally got it when this encounter was related to me over the phone. I wondered what had gone through Mrs. Grossman’s head? How did she feel about seeing a student, a little girl from her distant past, and thinking back to her own beginnings of womanhood and career?
There are many articles that have been written on high expectations. In the Elite Daily , we are told that the management of expectations is key to our happiness. The article goes on to say that if we don’t have any expectations, we can’t be disappointed. Makes sense, but easier said than done. The article summarizes that “There are two ways to be happy : improve your reality or lower your expectations.”
Also good reads: “How High Expectations Can Lead to Disappointment and Anxiety” by Carolyn James; ‘High Expectations: When to be Unreasonable (And When To Take It Easy)” by James Clear, and ‘How High Expectations Enable Success” by Stephen Guise.
It’s a tough personality to have, much like perfectionism. If you’ve been this way your whole life, pretty hard to change now. The key, I think, is to know when you are going into a situation that this is your makeup. Be mindful of the scene you are creating and set your expectations appropriately for the specific event, person, destination, encounter.
If I haven’t learned anything, I know this is my cross to bear and I alone have the power to set the bar a little lower. Not rock bottom, but maybe a couple inches off the ground. Kind of like doing the limbo!
. Set expectations realistically. Don’t expect more from people than they are capable of giving.
. Know that there are a lot of people just like you and be there to support their let-down if it comes.
Enjoy the Ride!
xox Barclay & Joy