Summer is long gone. New Year’s resolutions are up ahead.
Expectations for the next year are on the horizon and the pressure is on!
Our lives are constantly becoming increasingly competitive and highly pressurised. ‘More’ is constantly being demanded of us at work – it’s ‘sink or swim’! The organisations we work for must innovate continuously in order to stay relevant and so we must fall in line, innovate our methods and re-brand ourselves – there is no such thing as a transient or enduring business plan.
These expectations, if left to their own devices, will leave us in eternal disappointment. The trap of reaching a goal and immediately refocusing on the new one is dangerous. When we continue to add pressure and the weight of increasingly harder-to-achieve goals, but fail to give ourselves credit for the expectations we have already surpassed, we lose sight of the purpose behind the goal – the reason why we aim for it.
Worse yet, if we fail to take the time to acknowledge our successes and feel proud of them, we risk living in a continuous state of hope and never feeling satisfied. At school, there used to be a new pop quiz every other week, and we had multiple subjects to excel in. At work, needless to say, promotional opportunities come about far less frequently. Therefore, we must never lose sight of our successes and actively choose to be proud of ourselves.
You cannot rely on others to be proud for you. My parents were impressed when I achieved a high grade in a recent assignment at university, but they have two other children who still live at home to support through their education. Therefore, I rely on the confidence gained from one achievement to spur me on for the next hurdle. I cannot expect my family to remind me that I have done well and am capable of continued success.
Our personal lives also face regular competition across the Holy Trinity of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We constantly strive to outdo each other to be the happiest, most news-worthy and most interesting ‘friend’. Of course, adhering to the expectations of our closest 500 acquaintances is most likely impossible. More distant friends will undoubtedly not know what is reasonable to expect of you, they are unlikely to know your exact circumstances at that point in time, and therefore what you can handle. Moreover, the more expectations you try to meet, the more likely you are to disappoint; you have a finite amount of time, energy, and resources, and therefore can only handle so much. Some of the best advice I ever received is ‘choose who you hold in high esteem and have mutual respect with. Take their opinion into account and let everyone else’s opinions fall to the wayside’.
While other people may have valid hopes for you, any pressure they put on you is invalid (unless they have authority to do so, e.g. they are your boss or teacher). It is very easy for other people to make demands when they do not have to put in the work or withstand the stress until said task is completed. However, when someone commits to doing something, they are committed to the consequences whether they succeed or not, as well as any mental, emotional, or physical results that may occur.
Most important of all are the expectancies we set for ourselves. These are the intentions we follow best – they are of the greatest meaning to us. Tempering realism with self-assuredness is the key to ensuring success. We are often very good at being realistic because we know ourselves best, although we can be our own greatest critics due to fear and low self-esteem. High pressure to meet expectations can also increase the ‘realism’ factor, but at a cost to our emotional stability. Hence why we need a good balance between the two.
Ultimately, you cannot compromise yourself. Sometimes though, when adhering to all the expectations set upon you – no matter by whom – you can end up doing exactly that! Last year, I had a serious ‘wake-up call’ one day when I discovered a load of ancient, unused art supplies. I had started focusing so heavily on my academics that I had forgotten I enjoyed a hobby. I have since rectified the matter, but I am surely not the only one to have fallen in this trap.
The pressure to be everything to everyone and meet infinite demands can cause stress, anxiety, and even physical illness. Always take on commitments at your own pace and reserve the right to say ‘no’. If the friend who asked you to ‘get the job done’ wants it done badly enough, they will either do it themselves or find someone else who will. Over this holiday season, while everyone else harbours high hopes for their friends and family in the future, try to enjoy the present; focus on your successes and take a holiday from the weight of everyone else’s expectations.
More mindfulness and wellbeing tips can be found in my motivational calendar for 2019.
Whether reflecting on experience, or looking forward in anticipation, every day is an opportunity to do something positive. TV psychologist & author Dr Audrey Tang (43) and creative writer & millennial business blogger Rachel Gordon (23) have teamed up to inspire your 2019 – whatever your age!
We have recently released a charity edition within the Mindful Motivations range, from which all proceeds will be donated to the children’s mental health charity Place2Be. Please purchase a calendar to help us support this worthwhile cause.