Goals versus Expectations How are these different?

When one is considering making changes in one’s life, small or big ones, it becomes critical to know the difference between realistic goals and expectations in order to avoid the pitfall of thinking they are one and the same.

Expectations can be self-imposed or imposed by others. How we emotionally attach to expectations can produce negative results of doing so.

On my walk this morning I noticed how prepared the beach vendors were for a successful day, a day of making money from people they thought would be coming to enjoy the beach. The tranquil setting with its lounge chairs all set up demonstrated their expectations.

Perhaps they had considered the weather prediction of a mostly sunny day, and the fact that it is a weekend day, would guarantee their expectations could be met. I thought their expectations were realistic.

My last week’s struggles to meet my personal expectations prompted the thought of how emotional attachment to my goals was giving me grief and a real negative attitude about my ability to set realistic commitments.

Merriam-Webster defines Expectation as “the act or state of looking forward to some occurrence” A synonym offered is 'anticipation'.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as “the feeling or belief that something will or should happen”.

Signalling words in these definitions are: anticipation, feeling, belief, should. These are clues that emotional attachment is inherent. If an expectation is not realized, an emotional reaction might be prompted, such as anger, blaming, or negative self-esteem. If a realistic goal is not reached, there is a re-evaluation of the factual basis for the predictions to support the goal and usually a new way forward to reach the goal.

The beach vendor, if the goal results were less than hoped for, would be disappointed and might decide another time not to put out all the loungers so early but would accept the experience without feeling self-blame.

What is the lesson here? For me, being mindful of this difference between goals and expectations can help me avoid self-blame and give me clarity to accept and move on without negative self-blame or anger directed externally.

As I was researching the topic of expectations, I came across a thought provoking and helpful article by Amanda Christian in her blog, Amanda Outside. Read the entire article. You will be glad you did.  https://tinybuddha.com/blog/are-your-expectations-setting-you-up-for-disappointment/ 

Want to share with me about setting goals and expectations when considering making a life change? Would love to have a conversation.

Share this article

  • Leanne LC says:

    I’ve never really thought of myself as a big goal setter – but I definitely fall into the trap of having high expectations – and also not realizing that those expectations are often influenced by perfectionism and people pleasing. It’s only been the last few years that I’ve started to recognize when that’s happening and to turn things around to being about what feels right for me at a particular life event – rather than what I think others would expect of me. It’s definitely a tricky one.

    • Judith. says:

      Leanne, I feel so confirmed by your reply. We share the joy of the discovery process as we search for and define our true self. Yes, it is tricky, but always learning is there. I think wisdom has come to you earlier than it has to me.

  • Yvonne Graham says:

    You failed to mention ‘faith’. I believe ‘faith’ is a part of each one. We need faith to reach our goals AND faith that we can meet our expectations.

    • Judith. says:

      Thanks for joining the conversation.
      Faith is an individual choice and means different things to different people. But, Yes, some form of belief support can affect both goals and expectations.

  • >