When and Why Adjusting Your Expectations Can Serve You Well

How Simple Mindset Shifts Can Improve Your Mental and Emotional Well-Being

Neel Raman
7 min readMay 16, 2023

Things often don’t go as planned, therefore adjusting your expectations can help you better deal with difficult times.

In life, you may not always get what you want. You can plan and prepare as much as possible, but sometimes the outcome isn’t what you expected.

This isn’t a bad thing if it leads to something better, yet when the results aren’t up to your expectations, it can be disheartening.

Adjusting your expectations can help you refocus and foster more productive habits. An excessive need for control, certainty, and perfection can contribute to an unrealistic outlook and an inability to move forward.

Changing the way you think about expectations can lead to new opportunities that may have been previously blocked by your beliefs and mental barriers.

Find out when and why adjusting expectations can serve you well. Learn the positive effects it can have and how it can prevent unnecessary stress.

1-Minute Summary Video

What are Expectations?

We all have expectations, and they are a normal part of the human experience. Expectations become problematic when they are too high or too low.

Expectations are what you anticipate happening or believe will happen in the future. They can be positive or negative, or conscious or unconscious. They shape your experience of life and the decisions you make.

Your expectations define the parameters of a situation by defining what’s acceptable or unacceptable beforehand. This can help you save time and energy by establishing rules that govern your interactions with others.

If expectations aren’t managed correctly, they can be deflating when things don’t play out as anticipated. You may have unrealistic expectations when it isn’t feasible or practical to achieve the outcomes you want.

When you have unmet expectations, you may feel disappointed and frustrated. Adjusting your expectations can empower you to consider more realistic and more achievable alternatives and solutions. You can open yourself up to opportunities for growth and success you may not have realized were available before.

Expectations are powerful. They are simply your beliefs about how things should or shouldn’t be. They also have the potential to negatively affect your life if you don’t adjust them accordingly.

adjusting your expectations

How Does Expectations Affect Your Life?

Expectations affect your life in positive and negative ways.

On the positive side, expectations can:

  • Motivate you to reach your goals.
  • Help you stay focused and organised.
  • Provide a sense of purpose and direction.
  • Help you avoid frustrations and missteps as you embark on any endeavour.
  • Set you up for positive outcomes in life.

On the negative side, expectations can:

  • Lead to disappointment when they are not met.
  • Cause stress, frustration, and anxiety if they are too high or unrealistic.
  • Create feelings of failure or inadequacy if you don’t meet them.
  • Decrease your motivation if your expectations of people don’t match your belief systems.
  • Lower your life satisfaction and happiness.

Your expectations affect nearly every area of your life. From relationships to reaching goals, having reasonable expectations can make all the difference in achieving success.

By paying attention to what truly matters, you can use adjusting your expectations as a tool for personal growth and transformation. You can learn to pay more attention to how well (or not) things are going situationally and adjust accordingly.

When and Why You Should Adjust Your Expectations

Here are five mindset shifts you can make to improve your mental and emotional well-being by learning how to have healthy expectations.

1. Focus on intention rather than having mismatched expectations

When you focus on intention instead of having mismatched expectations, you can better align your actions with your goals. Rather than expecting a certain outcome, focus on the process and the journey. This will help you stay motivated and focused on what truly matters.

Remember that life is unpredictable and things don’t always go as planned. When this happens, it’s important to adjust your expectations accordingly. This will help you stay flexible and open-minded when faced with unexpected challenges or obstacles.

By focusing on intention rather than mismatched expectations, you can also be more mindful of how your thoughts and actions affect others. This will help you build stronger relationships with those around you and create a more positive environment for everyone involved.

2. Pause and assess the situation that did not go as planned

When faced with unexpected outcomes, it’s important to take a step back and assess the situation. This will help you gain perspective on what went wrong and how you can adjust your expectations to better align with reality.

Taking a step back also allows you to identify potential solutions or alternatives that may have been overlooked before. By doing this, you can create more realistic expectations that are achievable and beneficial for everyone involved.

3. Be willing to ask for help

Sometimes, adjusting your expectations can be difficult, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck. In these situations, reach out for help from those around you who can provide guidance or support.

Asking for help can be difficult, but it’s important to remember you don’t have to go through it alone. By reaching out and seeking support, you can gain insight into your original expectations and how you can adjust them so they work best for you.

4. Stay open to new possibilities

Adjusting your expectations doesn’t mean giving up on your goals or dreams. Instead, it’s about being open to new possibilities and embracing change as an opportunity for growth and transformation.

When faced with unexpected outcomes, look at the situation from a different perspective. This will help you identify potential solutions or alternatives that may have been overlooked before.

By doing this, you can create more realistic expectations that are achievable and beneficial for everyone involved.

5. Let go of perfectionism

Perfectionism is a major obstacle when it comes to adjusting your expectations. It’s important to remember that life is unpredictable and things don’t always go as planned.

When this happens, it’s important to let go of perfectionism and accept the reality of the situation.

By letting go of perfectionism, you can focus on the present moment and take action to move forward. This will help you stay motivated and focused on what truly matters.

How to Adjust Your Expectations

Expectations are based on beliefs and judgments, which can often be heavily influenced by your experiences.

It’s important to understand that your mental model of how the world works affects the standards you create for yourself and how you judge others.

Here are steps you can take to adjust your expectations.

1. Identify your current expectations

It’s important to know what your expectations are. Take time to reflect on what you expect from yourself and others.

2. Evaluate if your expectations are realistic

To avoid the trap of expectation, it’s helpful to evaluate if they are realistic or not. Ask yourself if the standards you have created for yourself are serving you or if they’re beneficial for everyone involved.

3. Set goals that align with your priorities

If your expectations aren’t realistic, it’s time to set new goals that align with reality. This will help you stay motivated and focused on what truly matters without getting overwhelmed by unrealistic standards.

4. Practice self-compassion

It’s important to practice self-compassion when adjusting your expectations. Remember that mistakes are part of the learning process and it’s okay to make them.

5. Celebrate your small wins

Finally, celebrate small wins along the way. This will help you stay motivated and remind yourself that progress is possible, even if it takes time.

Final Thoughts

Adjusting your expectations is a key skill for navigating through life. While it may not always be easy, it’s valuable to know how to adjust them to better deal with difficult times.

Being flexible and allowing yourself to adjust your expectations can help you better deal with disappointments, stay proactive despite changing circumstances, and maintain mental clarity and a positive attitude.

This flexibility can lead to more meaningful experiences and improved relationships. By allowing yourself to adjust your expectations when necessary, it can help you achieve success in the long run.

Action Step: If something recently did not go as planned, assess what your expectations were. Identify what you had hoped would happen and why. Use the lessons you learned from that experience to refine your expectations.

Question: What are other reasons adjusting your expectations can serve you well?

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Neel Raman

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