Expectation can often change the reality that we are living in. Think about it, have you been so excited to see this hot, new movie out that everyone is talking about and when you finally see it, you are disappointed with the outcome? Or possibly you went into this new, hot movie thinking that you wouldn't get much out of it, and yet by the end you thought it was the best to date! This goes to show that your expectations and what you hope to get out of something can really influence how joyful or meaningful that experience was for you.
For example, consider the ads on TV where they promise that you can drop 20 to 30 pounds in a month. You go into that experience expecting and anticipating that you will look as good as the people did when they lost 50 to 100 pounds. This all sounds great, but what you have to consider is context. Those people that lost 50 to 100 pounds are most likely not as active as you are, and they probably do not take a close look at what they eat on a daily basis.
Context is truly key when you consider expectations, consider your self-expectations. Say your health goals consist of losing weight and gaining muscle. First, I would have you consider much more specific goals. The whole point of setting and attaining goals is knowing when you’ve attained those goals. If you just want to “lose weight” and “gain muscle” then how do you when enough is enough? Consider how much, how long it should take, what ways will help accomplish your goal, and always remember why you are doing it.
Considering the context of your expectations under the previous example, if you are already relatively fit and your goal is to lose 30 pounds in 30 days with diet alone, that is going to be a challenge. With a goal like that, you going into that experience hoping to feel and look better in 30 days. Say you’re successful, losing that 30 pounds may not be in your best interest or healthiest for you. When that happens, you feel worse than you did when you were 30 pounds heavier. Say you’re unsuccessful, you’ve set yourself up for failure from the start, and now you feel worse mentally and physically because you did not meet your expectations.
Temper your expectations. I’m not saying aim so low that anything easy is achievable, but make sure that your expectations are attainable for you as an individual, given all of the current circumstances you are in. The above example is someone who expects to lose weight, even though they are perhaps already at their ideal weight. In that case, I’d invite this hypothetical person to try adjusting something other than their weight - perhaps their sleep schedule could use adjustment, or perhaps cross training in a discipline such as yoga, where they challenge their body in a different realm.
Let’s shift gears for a bit and consider the expectations we have of other people. Perhaps you have an incredible work ethic that drives you to exercise day in, day out. You should not expect every other person to have the same drive as you, and that should be okay with you. The opposite is true as well, you may not have a great inner voice that drives you to stay healthy. Other people may have more drive than you, and that is okay! Going back to what I said about goals and remembering why you are doing this is incredibly important to keeping you on the track to success. Remember that other’s goals are not your own, how they go about things does not impact you.
External expectations (the things that we expect from our environment) can be some of the most difficult to deal with, because we expect to have some influence over the outcome. While this is true some times, it does not happen all of the time.
Self expectation, external expectation, it all boils down to resilience. It is dealing with speed bumps over and over again. What you go into the experience thinking and expecting can change the outcome of the experience. However, you can come out of an experience resilient, no matter what your expectations were, and be stronger for the next experience.
Be thoughtful in your expectations. Be resilient when it comes to each experience. Stay on your own path, and don’t start down someone else’s path for them - even though it may cross yours. Remember that expectations can shape your reality, so make the best of your own universe!
Jack is a Tri Fitness Coach, and his credentials include NASM CPT, B.S. in Kinesiology, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. If you’d like help setting and achieving your health and wellness goals, please contact Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.