8 Unrealistic Expectations That Might Be Holding You Back

Katie Sweeney

When I was 18, I expected to have a vacation house in Spain and two successful best-selling novels (that were later turned into blockbuster movies) by the time I turned 30. However, as I grew older, I quickly realized that these were wildly unrealistic expectations. Having idealistic presumptions about what will happen in your life, a recent LinkedIn article argues, is more harmful than helpful.

Why? Because your expectations determine your reality. If you don’t believe you will succeed, then science shows, you won’t. “Your expectations shape your reality. They can change your life, emotionally and physically,” explains Dr. Travis Bradberry. “You need to be extra careful about (and aware of) the expectations you harbor as the wrong ones make life unnecessarily difficult.”

In order to move forward and succeed at accomplishing your goals, it’s important to recognize when your expectations are holding you back. Here are eight common unrealistic expectations that you should let go of now.

  1. Life should be fair. You’ve heard it a million times—Life isn’t fair—but that won’t stop many people from subconsciously thinking that it should be. It’s not, and it never will be, so get over it. As Bradberry puts it, “Sometimes there isn’t any consolation prize, and the sooner you stop expecting there to be, the sooner you can take actions that will actually make a difference.”
  2. Opportunities will fall into my lap. In my early 20s, I realized that opportunity doesn’t come to you, you have to seek it out. Just because you deserve a raise doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to happen. It’s up to you to make it happen. Don’t limit yourself to what is given to you. Put in the hard work, and go out and get what is yours.
  3. Everyone should like me. It doesn’t matter how wonderful, kind, and appreciative you are, not everyone is going to like you, so you shouldn't expect everyone to instantly like you. Instead, focus on earning their respect and trust.
  4. People should agree with me. In many cases, there is more than one right answer. Not everything is black and white, therefore you shouldn’t expect people to always agree with what you are saying. Rather than trying to get someone to agree with you, Bradberry recommends finding solutions that give everyone what they need.
  5. People know what I’m trying to say. In order for people to understand you, you need to clearly explain things with all of the relevant information. Just because you’re talking doesn’t mean they will know what you’re trying to say. Pay attention to the other person’s perspective and make your communication clear.
  6. I’m going to fail. Research shows that if you expect to fail, you will have a higher chance of failing. Believe that you will succeed, and you will have a greater chance of accomplishing your goals.
  7. Things will make me happy. Too many people expect a future event ("I’ll be happy once my boyfriend proposes") to make them happy. However, it’s usually other things that are causing you to be unhappy. No external event or item will make you happy. You have to decide to be happy.
  8. I can change him/her. As Bradberry puts it, "There’s only one person in this world you can truly change—yourself—and even that takes a tremendous amount of effort. The only way that people change is through the desire and wherewithal to change themselves." Stop expecting to change people. It won’t ever happen.

To learn more about letting go of unrealistic expectations, read The Power of Surrender.

As you’ve grown older, what expectations have you realized were unrealistic?

Explore: career, money, aging

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