An expectation can be positive or negative, realistic or unrealistic, about behavior or performance, increase anxiety or relieve stress, and result in disappointment or surprise. There are two sources of expectations: internal and external. Internal expectations are rooted in beliefs, grounded by experience and flourish though thoughts. In contrast, others impose external expectations based on their beliefs, experience or thoughts.
It is easy to see how a negative expectation would increase exhaustion. Anticipating the death of a loved one on a daily basis will naturally cause an increase in anxiety. However, even positive expectations can increase exhaustion. Hoping a marriage will last fifty years only to discover it won’t survive past seven years can be stressful.
The key is to challenge the belief, experience or thought behind each expectation. Some expectations need to be discarded while others can be useful. A belief which demands perfectionism is not healthy because no one is perfect. However a belief which strives for excellence is healthy. Experiences that encourage activity such as bullying are defeating. Whereas experiences that encourage productivity such as coach are inspiring. Positive self-talk can build confidence. Negative self-talk can paralyze.
Taking this concept and applying it on a practical level will seem even more exhausting at first. It forces a person to evaluate underlying belief systems, work past fearful experiences, and discipline random thoughts. It is a lot of work. Yet, the benefits of more freedom and control outweigh the effort.
The best place to start is with the expectation. Here are a couple of examples:
- Physical – Desiring to be a fashion icon.
- Spiritual – Having a doubtless faith that never fades.
- Emotional – Living guilt free with no emotional baggage.
- Work – Being able to multitask without decreased performance.
- Friendship – Pleasing others and being available all the time.
- Parenting – Having perfect kids who never get in trouble.
- Marriage – Sustaining the same level of passion felt when dating.
Now take the expectation and answer the following questions:
- Is it an internal or external expectation?
- What is the underlying belief?
- What experiences contribute to that belief?
- What thoughts stem from the belief and experience?
- Is the expectation helpful or hurtful?
- What part should remain? What part should be discarded?
For example using the work expectation of multitasking, here are some sample answers.
- Is it an internal or external expectation? The expectation is both. It is a demand of the job and I like having a constant flow of things to do.
- What is the underlying belief? I can do it all without compromising quality.
- What experiences contribute to that belief? In the past, I’ve been successful in multitasking. I was expected to do it as a teen in school.
- What thoughts stem from the belief and experience? Because I’ve done it before, I can do it now. What is wrong with me when I can’t multitask?
- Is the expectation helpful or hurtful? It is hurtful when I can’t perform at peak levels all the time. It is helpful when much is demanded of me and I’m able to get it done.
- What part should remain? What part should be discarded? I want to keep the part that is helpful. I need to cut myself a break when I’m overwhelmed.
Adjusting expectations to more useful levels can encourage, inspire and motivate a person. Allowing expectation to go unchecked will contribute to increased exhaustion.