One of the most common reasons for dissatisfaction, job or otherwise, is when real life doesn’t live up to expectations. And way too often, with excitement of the new and unknown driving us, we set our job expectations too high.
I’ve heard people talk about their husbands or wives or even their children this same way. And it leads to fights and disappointment and even feelings of being let down by the other person — who never even knew what you were thinking. Unreal expectations can cause so much personal unhappiness.
But when it comes to jobs, often the expected (hoped for) picture takes over and erases all the bad of what we have now. Dream thinking takes over. And I can’t help wonder why we are so hooked on what never actually existed. Expectations are not anything you can hold in your hand or see.
A few things about job expectations
Whether we set our job expectations too high or too low, those expectations do not exist in any concrete form. We give them great power, but as real as they may come to feel, they live solely in our heads.
Let me say that again, since we place so much weight on those expectations: they live in our heads. We create them. And we feed and water them. And we act on them as if they were real.
But they cannot exist outside of our brains. And yet, we are devastated when the outside world doesn’t live up to our own self-created expectations. How can life let us down that way? But life never knew what you were thinking.
If we give these fantasies the power to make us miserable, then we miss out. We miss out on chances to create something better for ourselves. And we miss out on fully utilizing what’s really ours to work with and nurture.
Laurie’s new job
When Laurie first told me about her job offer, she was extremely excited. This was everything she ever wanted. It was a higher title for her. And something she had worked hard to get.
But now that she’s in the new job, she’s miserable. She told me that this new role isn’t at all what she expected. And she can’t help thinking about what she wanted it to be. Why was everything going so wrong?
Well, the answer is fairly simple. Not only had she set her job expectations too high, but she hadn’t asked enough questions about what the job really is. And what would be expected of HER.
In fact, she admitted to being angry that the job isn’t as glamorous as she had hoped (without solid reasons for that hope.) And the new job turned out to require much more work than she imagined.
Opportunities missed while regretting
While Laurie wastes time regretting the move and wallowing in dashed expectations, she misses out on the opportunities that are right in front of her. When we first talked, I could see many ways for her to build her new job into something she could really love. Or at least like a lot more.
Sure it will take some time. What thing worth having doesn’t? But it will be worth it in the end because it will be shaped in a way that matches her. Rather than sit in regret, she can roll up her sleeves and accept what it is. And she can stop wasting time on what life could have been.
But if she stays in that negative, “poor me” place, she reinforces her belief that the job is bad. And she will have, in effect, thrown away a golden chance. By letting her brain get stuck in what the new job isn’t, she’s missing out on what she can create right where she is.
Oh that “what it isn’t” thinking!
Of course, Laurie’s not alone in this. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been trapped by their own expectations. And by “what it isn’t” thinking. But we only have what it is. So that’s what we need to work on — starting today.
If you set your job expectations too high, take a deep breath, and assess the reality of the moment. And then create some brand new expectations for yourself. With a little patience, you can find opportunities almost anywhere!
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