Effectively Handling Expectations vs Reality:Steps to Avoid the Trap

by | Dec 12, 2023 | Mind

The expectation is the hope or belief that something will happen. Some expectations may contribute to goal-directed behavior, but other times, it can lead to disappointments. This is because reality cannot always match up to what will happen. It is important to keep yourself detached from expectations as they are not always the reality of a situation. BENEFITS OF EXPECTING

Having expectations is essential as it gives you direction for how to achieve your goal. High expectations can help promote a student’s health and academic achievement. as it instigates a student’s self-esteem and self-efficacy. This goes for the workplace, too. Your boss and teammates’ expectations for you can improve your self-confidence as a professional and help develop your work skills.

If you have low expectations from yourself, increase them to make you more vulnerable to failure and motivate you to work harder.



Expectations emerge from the misconception that something will merely just happen if we want it to happen. Thus, you can tend to focus on the outcome and not the journey. The moment you are deviated from the journey, you are not able to manifest the outcome. The modern philosopher, Alan Watts, claimed  the more we pursue something, the more we achieve the opposite of what we want.


Having unrealistic expectations about the self can increase feelings of disappointment and anxiety. This may be the result of negative aspects of perfectionism. Non-fulfillment of your personal self-expectations can give way to self-doubt, self-blame or lead to isolation, loneliness and even depression. 


Unreasonable expectations from or for your partner can destroy a beautiful relationship. If a partner expects the other person to agree on everything or spend all their free time together, this can become catastrophic for a relationship, leading to disappointment, resentment, and disconnection with a partner. 


When your expectations outgrow reality, you are failing to appreciate what you have. You can find yourself overlooking what you have with what you want. For instance, after a breakup, you may claim you have nobody in your life, when in reality your family and friends are in your life ready to love and listen to you.


First and foremost, you need to understand that expectations are nothing more than our guesses which are converted into deep hopes. So, removing expectations from personal and professional relationships is wise. 


If you are unsure about something, ask questions. Your partner might just be busy and not wanting to attend your friend’s party, but you get upset as if he or she did it deliberately. Similarly, you might be assuming that your assistant knows whom to mail the document to, but he or she may mail it to the wrong department. A lack of communication can create confusion and hurt. Save yourself time and energy by asking things in advance.


At the workplace, if you are working on big projects you must take all factors into account. Imagine half a dozen worst-case scenarios and how they may occur. This helps one to articulate to your team a few key points that ensure those scenarios do not happen. In a similar manner, personal life and relationships should also be cared for. 


Negative thinking may be a behavioral pattern for some that further exaggerats unrealistic expectations. So, one must learn to overcome these thoughts by recognizing the patterns. Employ the catch it, check it, change it strategy. This means you keep a track of the not-so-pleasant thought that creates distress, frustration, anxiety and worry within you. Ultimately, the negative idea has to be replaced with a more realistic idea so that you can prepare yourself to be more accepting.


Mindfulness will help you be more self-aware. Perfectionism needs recognition to allow you to come to terms with your thoughts. Being aware of your bad tendencies that can prevent you from being accepting, critical or judgmental. Through mindfulness, we can learn to let go and release the stress related to perfectionism.


Feelings of stress related to an unfulfilled expectation can zap your energy and potential leading to anxiety and other panic symptoms. So, 

  • stop striving for perfection 
  • choose tasks that are easy to accomplish
  • don’t reply to stressful situations over and over again in your head
  • focus on the positive aspects


One may be judging others or his or her own abilities on the basis of the various roles we play in our lives. So, instead of self-criticism, look for ways to boost your self-confidence. 

  • Practice self-love and self-care. 
  • Learn to say ‘NO’. 
  • assist others in their time of need
  • stop comparing yourself to others
  • challenge  negative thoughts about yourself


You have to learn how to handle expectations by building a strong communication with yourself and others. This will give you a clear understanding of what to expect and when to expect. It also means being open-minded, flexible and willing to compromise when necessary.

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Dr. Bob Singhal

Professor Bhupendra 'Bob' Singhal, has taught creativity by joy and right-brain thinking, is a renowned international architect, won major design competitions, has over 70 awards, publications, and media mentions, and served as President of the American Institute of Architects South Bay. In 2011, in his book Joy in Health and Happiness: Your Optimal Path to Success, Professor Singhal wrote about the transformative power of joy and helped readers learn to enhance their daily experience of it.


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