Recently this column has dealt with the expectations of employee and employer. Equally important are the expectations that one places on one’s self.
High expectations of one’s self are essential to meeting personal goals and objectives. Persons who do not set objectives and goals deprive themselves of reaching levels of competence and achievement that bring great personal satisfaction and contribution to happiness.
The demands that one places on one’s self should not be unrealistic. To have aspirations of being a professional athlete or an opera singer when we lack the necessary, God-given talent is not realistic. Most emotionally mature people do not have those types of unrealistic expectations of themselves. They do have others that rob them of their joy in living and reaching goals.
• It is unrealistic to expect that you have everyone’s approval in all that you do or say. Persons who worry about gaining approval from the boss, co-workers, spouse, friends, or children are setting themselves up for failure. This does not mean that you disregard others’ feelings, needs or wants. It does mean that your work and other behaviors should represent your values. Your time and emotional energy should not be wasted on pleasing others. Your energy needs to be spent on being the best worker, the best co-worker, the best spouse, the best friend and the best parent you can be.
If our energies are properly focused, we will please many of the people in our lives but never all. To attempt to be a pleaser robs you of the opportunity of succeeding in those very efforts.
• It is unrealistic to expect that you should be knowledgeable, competent and talented in everything. I personally do not know any Renaissance Men even though I know some very talented, educated and competent people. Some people limit themselves because they focus on their areas of weakness rather than on their areas of strength. Bernie Ebbers, CEO of WorldCom, is not a highly skilled technocrat but he has capitalized on his wonderful visionary, organizational and management skills.
• It is unrealistic to expect that you will be spared all the horrible, painful events of life. They are like death, a part of life’s cycle. Some people endure and prevail over many hardships. They remain happy, productive, and successful people. Others, who have not yet experienced many of life’s bumps, become victims of this horrible injustice they have experienced and become consumed with the unfairness of life.
• It is unrealistic to expect that you are doomed to be a product of your past. We cannot always effect what happens to us, but we do have the power to choose how we respond. There is value in understanding how our childhood experiences, family dynamics, family history and traumatic events affect our basic personalities. The value is in helping us to understand our emotions, needs and basic personalities. We then must use this information to make the choices in life that determine who we become. To do otherwise is to remain a victim of our past.
• It is unrealistic to expect happiness to come from an external force. It must come from within one’s self. If we look to others or to tangible things to make us happy, we are unlikely to be happy. Another person cannot meet our needs for a sustained period of time. That is the reason why relationships between people, having great needs outside themselves, are never long-term, happy relationships.
Tangible things that money can buy add to one’s level of happiness until income exceeds the amount needed to meet basic needs. Thus persons who are already happy may be even more grateful for tangible things. I have seen true happiness and joy in persons who became owners of a used, manufactured home while others consider their 3600 sq. ft. home a starter house only to be endured. People come for counseling who have no reasons for being unhappy yet they report that they are miserable. Others come for counseling who have major problems with little or no chance for resolution and still find great joy in living.
• It is unrealistic to expect a life that is stress free. Stress is one of the motivators of life. Responsibilities, deadlines, financial pressures, illnesses, etc., motivate us to action to reduce the stress. It is realistic and desirable to manage and reduce the stress in our life.
It is realistic for you to know and appreciate your strengths and weaknesses and to use them in developing your goals. It is even more important that you set high expectations for yourself.
Archie H. King, LPC, is a counselor and human resources consultant in Jackson.