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The Role of Expectation Management in Success

At its core, expectation management is about aligning hopes with reality.  We’re taught to manage customers’ or employees’ expectations so they don’t become unwieldy, but the goal isn’t to settle for mediocrity; instead, it’s about being mutually transparent about what is realistically achievable.  

Managing expectations is a vital skill that can make the difference between trust and disappointment, between confidence and self-loathing in our lives, careers and society. 

Examples of common unrealistic expectations

  • Hiring people 3 years out of grad school to become clinical directors, supervise other therapists, handle insurance, and deal with patients. 
  • Falling in love with THE one, fill our void, and live happily ever after.
  • Give students only video lessons and workbooks, then expect mastery. 

When Should We Manage Expectations?

 Hopefully, my examples above bring a smile and help you see that the answer is almost always! When starting a new project at work, setting clear and attainable goals from the get-go can save a lot of headaches later on. In personal relationships, communicating expectations can prevent resentment and disillusionment.

For behavioral healthcare providers, managing expectations with clients sets the stage for constructive therapeutic relationships and prevents unintentionally overpromising and underdelivering, which leads to a loss of trust and motivation. Not setting clear expectations causes frustration for all stakeholders. For example, when a family begins ABA, it is vital to prepare the parents for the time commitment they’ll have to make to participate in sessions, expect extinction bursts, and follow the intervention plan even when it’s not the easiest thing to do.

In the workplace, employees who understand their roles and the metrics for success are more likely to be engaged, satisfied, and productive. Companies that set unattainable goals and expectations are brewing a cocktail of stress and burnout.

Our Fast-Paced Society and the Peril of Unreasonable Expectations

The benefits are obvious when it comes to managing other people’s expectations. This article builds upon my previous one on assumptions here. We can all clearly see when our bosses, kids or partners have unrealistic expectations, but how well do we manage expectations of ourselves? 

Do you impose any unrealistic expectations on yourself? 

  • My kids will maintain close, healthy relationships with me even though I spend 30 minutes weekly with them.
  • When I’m xxx years old, I should be married to xxx type of person with xxx income, living in a five-bedroom house with a pool, driving a xxxx. 

Stop for a moment and examine what you’re telling yourself you should be, should have and should feel. Should, should, shoulds….

We live in an era of manufactured realities and instant gratifications. It’s effortless to digitally surround ourselves with only people who agree with us and get groceries, tutors, and cars delivered contactless. We now process news in 280 characters or less while constantly switching between ten tabs. All these factors quietly but powerfully shape our expectations of ourselves and each other. 

The “overnight success” stories on social media ignite unreasonable expectations regarding personal achievements and professional milestones. It is also changing how we learn—people turn to YouTube to learn everything and get frustrated when their work doesn’t turn out like what they see on Pinterest.  Someone asked me whether I could teach them to play this song even though they’ve never touched a key. Expectation management is just as important when dealing with yourself.

Managing Expectations | curaJOY

Some things take time. They take repeated practice until you have the muscle memory to do it without thinking. Some learning requires a teacher, coach and mentor to support you step by step.  Good things need solid foundations. While they take time, the benefits are sustainable growth, healthy relationships, self-esteem, and mental and physical wellness. So, manage your expectations.

Let’s recalibrate our ambitions with what’s attainable–expectation management–and cultivate an environment where joy and health aren’t sacrificed in our race to impress or achieve.

Key takeaways on the role of expectation management in redefining success and achieving wellbeing

  • Setting realistic goals and boundaries is crucial for effective expectation management and redefining success.
  • Open communication is vital in ensuring clarity and alignment. This includes being honest with yourself.
  • Unrealistic expectations can lead to stress and disappointment, hindering success.
  • Pitfalls of setting unrealistic expectations include burnout, decreased motivation, and strained relationships.
  • Embracing failures–reframing them as inappropriate expectations and learning opportunities.
  • Practicing gratitude and resilience enhances resilience and aids in managing expectations.
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