Expectations: To Shoot for the Stars or Not?

Does having high expectations really help you achieve your goals? I find myself conflicted with this question, wondering whether the possibility of disappointment is worth the potential for greater success.

We all tend to think that aiming for the moon really does get us to the trees. “Aim high, dream big!” they tell us. I have found that this attitude greatly helps in the beginning of a project. You want to set lofty goals, but break them down into concrete steps. Once this is done, the magic can happen. The grind begins. Opportunities arise. You make progress.

However, once game day comes, our attitude should switch. If we have been training well, then we are ready, but if we can convince our mind to lower our expectations then we may be more happy in the long run. “What’s done is done” is what I say. I think that this attitude also lowers the pain that can come through failure. It helps us to get back on our feet and try again. 

Meditation helps bring about this state of mind. For example, when I took my SAT Test I used as much equanimity as I could come test day. I accepted everything with lightness and playfulness. Nothing could break my concentration. I had drilled countless practice tests and knew I was ready. Yet, there was still an urge inside me that it was not enough. I might get tripped up by the one question I don’t know. Our monkey minds may be seductive, but we must shut them up if we want peace and success. I went into the test room, closed my eyes, and focused on my bodily sensations (how I meditate). From there, I told myself that it was time to get what I had came for and went onwards. I ended up getting a perfect score

Increasing your expectations at the start and lowering them at the end of a project is simply a method of “trusting the process”. The process may be grueling, but I believe that shifting your expectations right before the finish line can improve both success and long-term happiness. 

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