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A blog title intrigued me recently – Almost Everyone Who Is Unhappy with Life Is Unhappy for the Same Reasons. It was a re-post of a LinkedIn blog written by Dr. Travis Bradberry (author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0). He writes about the role of expectations (of ourselves and others) and the impact those expectations have on our work life and relationships.
I see this so much in myself and in relationships both at work and in community. On one end of the spectrum, there are the expectations that undermine our successes – we don’t think we have what it takes to realize our dreams or goals. [This can also include our expectations of others, in the same way, especially if our expectations influence those colleagues’ view of reality.] On the other end of the spectrum, we may have expectations that are so unreasonably and unrealistically positive that we don’t do the work of realizing those same dreams or goals. [Again, this works against relationships when we have these expectations of others.]
In his article, Bradberry lists 8 common expectations that impact our work life and work relationships. He lists them and talks about them. Here I have written my own observations related to these expectations.
As you read and reflect, Dr. Bradberry is not saying get rid of expectations, nor am I. Expectations when honest, thoughtful, and kind are great motivators toward success. The adage “Keep your expectations low and you will never be disappointed” doesn’t really get us where we want to go.
After you consider the following expectations and thoughts, I would love to hear some of yours (in the comments below).
- Life should be fair. I have never understood the lament “That’s not fair!” It really reveals the heart of “That’s not fair for me!” How do we even make life fair? Our children, growing up, were never rewarded when they cried foul on fairness. We tried to raise them to practice kindness and generosity. That usually led to better than fair. In fact, if we flipped fairness on its head, our western work situations and family lifestyles would be quite altered, if what was usual for other parts of the world became our usual. That would be fair, right?
- Opportunities will fall into my lap. There are times that opportunities “fall” into our laps. I call it “a God thing”. Whatever you might call that, it is rare and wonderful. In the day-to-day, we are to go after opportunities. Sometimes our very expectations of entitlement or pessimism keep us from even seeing opportunities right in front of us). Continue working hard, build your skill-set, learn from mentors, help your colleagues, practice thinking well of your boss, and seek out challenging assignments – these are fields where opportunities grow.
- Everyone should like me. I have tripped over this expectation. We think our own foibles are so much less annoying than those of others. If I consider myself congenial, you should comply, right? [The fairness problem nudges in here, for sure.] Bradberry summarizes this workplace problem well: “When you assume that people are going to like you, you take shortcuts; you start making requests and demands before you’ve laid the groundwork to really understand what the other person is thinking and feeling.” Rather than expecting others to be won by our personality, expertise, and past experience, we should discipline ourselves to practice winning the trust of a colleague, boss or customer… every time, as if it were the first time. This is a game-changer.
- People should agree with me. We honestly don’t want to have to work for people to agree with us. In the workplace, whenever possible, our default is to hang with those who do agree with us. This temptation sets us up for failure because we don’t gain from the critique of those who see things differently. Put your vision or project before those in other departments and see with their eyes what you might have missed with your own. Granted, be wise with whose counsel you seek, but do the work of seeking that counsel. Then share credit as appropriate.
- People know what I’m trying to say. Emails and text messages are almost communication. In corporate culture, even meetings don’t always cultivate clear communication. Be as clear and succinct as possible. Don’t lose the message in a jumble of clarifiers, justification, or story-telling. I’m not saying story-telling isn’t valuable; it is. The problem with story-telling is it can be contrived to emotionally engage when it actually takes away from the message. Again Bradberry wrote: “Communication isn’t anything if it isn’t clear, and your communication won’t be clear until you take the time to understand the other person’s perspective.”Photo Credit: CB Bain Seal Careers
Having lived overseas, we discovered the importance of learning the local “heart language”. In a work situation, the same holds true. How you communicate is colored by the focus of the one you’re addressing – whether it’s about ROI/ROV, employee engagement, product development….or fill in the blank. You can learn to balance between being true to your own style or values and adapting somewhat to the person in front of you (as a chameleon communicator).
6. I’m going to fail. “If you pursue an endeavor, believe with all your being that you’re going to succeed in that endeavor.” – Bradberry We all fail sometimes; having that perspective is healthy. The problem is when we are so insecure or self-deprecating, our colleagues, boss, or customers lose confidence in us, based on our own assessment of our abilities. Not something you want to ensure by your own hand. [Read the whole of Bradberry’s article to get at the heart of this.]
7. Things will make me happy. If you’re not happy at work today, there’s not one thing beyond yourself that can change that. Not a different boss, not a better team, not more vacation, not a higher salary. This is a work on the inside that has to change your experience of work on the outside. We all know this. We all know…this.
8. I can change him/her. Okay, if you’re married, you already know the futility of this statement (and your spouse can say the same thing, by the way). When we get our focus on that boss we don’t understand or that colleague who makes us nuts, we aren’t able to focus on our work or the relationships that encourage and empower us. So what if you can’t change that coworker or boss? Can you be successful in your work if he/she doesn’t change? Most probably, the answer is yes…whether it feels like it or not. We lose enormous time and emotional energy on colleagues with whom we struggle. If changing jobs isn’t plausible or desirable, then figure out how to compartmentalize the distractions, and get on with your work. You can be a rock star even with difficult work relationships. I don’t want to issue a bunch of platitudes…but it is disturbing how much is lost from our workday in ruminating over (or talking about) stuff we can’t change…when there is still so much we can accomplish. Don’t sideline yourself with brain clutter – negative thoughts that negatively affect your work and relationships.
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Keep those expectations high (for yourself) and hopeful (for others)! Happy Monday!
The Key to Being More Attractive – Business Insider Video with Tony Robbins [Quote: “Trade your expectations for appreciation.”]
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