Expectations

Being patient is difficult. Growing up and living in a world where expectations of speed and volume are ever doubling, life can be frustrating. We take our near-instant access to information as a suggestion that everything should come to us just as quickly and perfectly. Now, faster, more, better; don’t stop.

Keeping up with this is tiring and arguably, why so many people you pass on the street look like zombies. Our impatience and craving for expedition is killing us; ironically, in a slow, drawn out fashion. Because of this, it’s hard to detect when we’re pushing ourselves—and others—too hard. The new norm is to have the pedal to the floor constantly, feeling guilty whenever you lift your foot up. Over time, you see the deteriorative effects piling up. Your ability to keep up is obliterated, your motivation to continue sparse.

The solution is upsettingly simple: relax. Slow down. Pace yourself. Don’t be lazy, but don’t blow an artery racing toward a non-existent finish line. A favorite aphorism: “make haste slowly.” Act at a consistent, sustainable pace. No more, no less. Identify your limits, accept them, and avoid feeling ashamed if someone else is doing more than you or at a faster pace. The end result being a cooler head and an ideal quality of work.

Don’t be afraid to bark back at and ignore unrealistic expectations. Learn to identify the difference between pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone (good) and being on the verge of blowing a gasket (bad). Don’t let others set this standard for you—it’s not their right—regardless of what they’re doing for you (e.g. giving you a paycheck). Be proud of both knowing your limits and exercising retreat when you hit them. Never kill yourself over the expectations of another human being. Ever. You will always regret it.

If you’re fortunate enough to lead a team, define a set of standards for how things should be done. Instead of forcing your expectations on the individual, force them on the work produced by that individual in response to the standards. If you fail to define the bar, you can’t expect any specific quality of output.

By redirecting expectations on to the work, you remove the distraction of shame and guilt that comes from a person feeling not good enough for you. Instead, you get someone who focuses on producing the best work possible, not impressing you. It’s also a keen opportunity to develop a rapport with someone through teaching and fighting through the tough spots together.