How to Deal with Unrealistic Expectations

I love therapy. This week I have been working with my therapist to determine how to get myself motivated to work on tasks. One thing that I realized that was getting in my way was my high expectations. These expectations were honestly unrealistic.

I was upset that I did not have the perfect niche to monetize. I expected myself to be an expert in anything I was posting. Becoming more frustrated where I was at I found myself having some unrealistic expectations of myself.

Afterward, I found myself becoming unmotivated to work at all. I found myself not wanting to work on my blog or my day job tasks.

I have often been told that I am too hard on myself. It took a long time for me to understand and recognize when I was being too hard on myself.

My Unrealistic Expectations

my unrealistic expectations
  1. I wanted to be an expert in goal management
  2. Making more money from my blog. At least $1000 in one month.
  3. Should have more traffic and at least 1000, subscribers
  4. Should have more followers at least 100.
  5. I should be able to write a long-form blog post in one day after working all day.

Even I know some of these expectations are unrealistic. The problem is when I do not accomplish them I feel like I am failing.

This feeling of failure has led to increased feelings of self-doubt, lack of interest in blogging, and anxious feelings. These feelings make it more difficult for me to accomplish my goals.

Conflicting information about expectations

conflicting information about having unrealistic expectations

We have all heard the phrase go big or go home. Or give it your all.

Here is the deal large goals and expectations can push us to grow more. However, large goals and expectations can make us feel anxious or depressed when we do not reach them.

James Clear writes a lot about how to maintain small goals and improving by 1% in his book Atomic Habits. Yet, in this post, he writes about how large goals can help you get further.

This sounded like mixed information at first. So I decided to do more digging.

In that same article, James Clear goes on to explain small habits are still the best to implement. However, having higher expectations can help inspire you to go further than you naturally would. In theory, if you gave yourself only average expectations you would only amount to being average. Alternatively, when we push ourselves a little harder we might not make our goals but we will be a lot further along.

James Clear suggests to his readers to make large goals when asking permission to do something extraordinary.

I will be honest I do not quite understand what he means by this. His example is of literally asking permission. But could the permission be metaphorical? Such as asking permission of the world/ yourself to quit your job and move to Aruba.

Books that relate

I have been reading two other books on the topic of working on large goals. Grit by Angela Duckworth and Creative Confidence: Unleashing the creative power within us all by Tom and David Kelly. These two books’ main themes are about how fear of failure holds people back from accomplishing goals. The authors in both books can agree that failure is necessary for making progress. However, they do not necessarily state if having small goals or large goals is the better choice.

I completed Grit and I enjoyed it so much I am listening to the audio book again. I also enjoyed Creative Confidence so far and will continue to read it. I bought a copy for my partner who works for a startup called Deta Trainer. Because I thought the information would be valuable for his career and life goals.

I taught my brother some of the concepts and wisdom I learned reading Grit. To help him with his son who is developmentally behind.

Take away: have goals that are slightly out of your comfort range. Reach for them and keep reaching for them even if you fail.

Types of Unrealistic Expectations

1. You have too many goals you are working on

too busy unrealistic expectations

Many people have a long list of goals and tasks they only wish they had the time to complete. They complain that they wish they could do (fill in the blank) but they just do not have enough time.

If you have a laundry list of goals. You can focus your goals down. Check out my blog post about prioritization. And subscribe to receive a copy of my weekly goal crusher template.

I used to find myself overwhelmed with the amount of goals and tasks I wanted to accomplish in a day. This feelin often left me feeling like I should never try because I would not get everything done anyway.

Having too many goals left me unable to accomplish anything. I started prioritizing because accomplishing something was far better than accomplishing nothing.

2. Goals should come easily

Trying new things do not always come easily. Many perfectionists believe that everything they do should come easily with little effort the very first time that they do it. This is an unrealistic expectation.

Every person who has become successful has done so because they put in the effort. All of your favorite sports players might have some talent. However, they did not become start players overnight. They became star players because they endlessly worked to reduce their flaws in their game. They practiced until they became stars. These people found simple ways to improve. Amazing painters became amazing painters because they painted. You cannot become an expert in a day.

Many people give up on tasks that come with much difficulty. However, if they had just stuck with the task they would have learned the task would eventually become much easier.

3. Your thinking is rigid and all-or-nothing

All-or-nothing thinking is a cognitive distortion that tends to appear as black or white categories. Good versus bad, failure versus success, kinds of thoughts tend to lead people to viewing things as entirely positive or negative. Some trigger words that could indicate you use this thinking are worst, love, hate, never, and other extreme types of words.

Imagine your goal is to read 10 books by the end of the year but you only read 5 of those books. People who have all or nothing thinking will focus on not reaching their ultimate goal. They might feel as though they failed completely. However, the people around them that never read might feel like reading 5 books is quite a feat!

If you have an all-or-nothing perspective then you might minimize or diminish any progress that you make towards a goal because the ultimate goal was not met.

Rigid thinking occurs when a person does not examine thoughts from a different point of view. These beliefs often involve words like should, and must. When our expectations involve rigid thinking they often do not have room for error or different outcomes.

4. Taking responsibility for something you cannot control

Sometimes you cannot control things. When I was growing up a classmates cousin died on his way to go visit her. I remember her saying things about how if she had told him not to come over he would still be alive. This is one example of taking responsibility for things you cannot control. Believing you are at fault for something you had no control over.

Many people joke about Karma myself included when things go bad as well. However many people believe that when something bad happens it is because they did something to deserve it.

Alternatively, some people view team outcomes as solely their fault. For instance, in Amy Wambach’s book Forward, she describes attributing team loses as solely her fault. This can lead to feelings of not good enough.

The problems with unrealistic expectations

Unrealistic expectations can have consequences. Some of these consequences have already been discussed. For one your unrealistic expectations can hurt your self-esteem and self-worth. This is because a lot of us determine how good of a person we are to how much we accomplish.

Asking others about unrealistic expectations

asking people about unrealistic expectations

I asked some people in my life about what they think unrealistic expectations mean. I wanted to find more about what other people think. Each person had something different to say.

My brother expressed he thinks unrealistic expectations are expectations we have of ourselves that we cannot control. He gave the example of how pretty you are.

My friend E. described how her imposter syndrome fuels her high expectations. She described the process of constantly using higher goals to prove her worthiness of being in her field.

My partner stated about time frames and how having unrealistic time frames can be a part of unrealistic expectations.

My roommate stated that unrealistic expectations for her sound like someone who holds themselves as too accountable. Taking on too many tasks at once. Expecting to constantly be doing something and piling on the responsibilities.

How to tell your expectations are unrealistic

You can tell your expectations are unrealistic when you do not acknowledge what you have accomplished. If you often minimize the work that you do accomplish then you probably have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Do you often feel disappointed or overwhelmed by what you want to accomplish but never got to? This is an indication that your expectations could be too unrealistic.

Your expectation could be unrealistic if you often crap on your accomplishments. Do you ever say “well I did do that but (fill in the blank with something negative and diminishes what you accomplished)”? Minimizing your accomplishments and crapping on them derives from unrealistic expectations.

How to make your expectations more realistic

Take a step back. Without judgment for yourself think about what is working and what is not working.

I am prioritizing what I am working on for my goals. I have been thinking of the next small steps to push my blog in the right direction.

  1. Posting in the blogging groups and being active in those groups 3x a week.
  2. Writing 30 minutes each day.
  3. Reading 30 minutes each day.
  4. Posting to Instagram 3x a week.

I know these goals are more manageable than make 1000 dollars. And it’s not that making $1000 in a month is unrealistic for anyone. It is just unrealistic for my blog as it is. I will have to slowly progress to the point of gaining traffic and to do that I must focus on having good content.

My goals are also actionable daily and weekly habits. Having actionable daily habits will help you work towards your goals. These mini-goals will help you feel like you accomplished something and made a movement towards larger goals.

In this article you can find more information about setting realistic expectations.

Are large goals good or bad?

You should have large goals. Having a large goal allows you to visualize the destination. However, those large goals should have smaller mini goals that are doable and actionable.

Have large goals but lower expectations of yourself. Recognized when your expectations were hard and unrealistic. You might not reach your ultimate goal. You might decide to change track. For many individuals, this inability to reach a large goal fills them with self-doubt, shame, and guilt. These feelings in turn break down a person’s self-confidence and self-worth.

So while you should have large goals. Remember not to expect perfection. Ask yourself what your expectations were of yourself. Then ask if your expectations were reasonable. It can help to imagine yourself as someone else. All of your struggles, conflicting responsibilities are another person’s responsibility. Would you think they failed or simply tried their best?

Your ultimate life goal

This can also be your life mission. For me, it’s helping other people be successful. In the book Grit by Angela Duckworth. Angela has found that people need an ultimate life goal or passion or philosophy. This ultimate life goal provides direction for the work one puts in during her life. All of your mid-level and mini-goals should relate to your ultimate goal. You should have only one or two. And if you have two they should be in different areas of your life.


Try hard to combat shame or guilt when you did not meet your expectations. When you fail and we all do, you can focus on any achievement you did achieve. For instance so far I have made $13 on this blog. That is $13 more than I had before. I made that money doing something I genuinely enjoy doing and was doing for myself way before I started this blog. Also, I have been learning a lot for myself and others. This last month I joined a group of other bloggers facing the same struggles. I received my first comment from a fellow blogger. There are a lot mini goals that we do accomplish when we fail in our larger goals.

Recognize your small steps towards your goals. People often get caught up in the end goal. However, there are countless other accomplished goals that make up that larger goal. Be grateful for your progress when you have large goals you did not achieve.

People often get depressed when they fail. This is the exact opposite of what you want to feel because you will feel pretty demotivated. A ton of my lack of motivation comes for the fear of not meeting my goals and expectations.

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