When we think about expectations that we hold, we’re usually talking about the expectations we place on other people. We expect our children to behave in certain ways, we expect our spouse or partner to treat us or provide for us in certain ways, we expect our bosses, our coworkers, our employees to perform in certain ways. And in a previous post, I laid out the criteria that must be met in order to consider whether those expectations are reasonable or not: Understanding, Willingness, Capacity, and Alignment with vision. The other person must understand the expectation that you hold for them, they must be willing to meet it, they must be able to meet it, and you need to be sure that the expectation aligns with your overall vision. It’s a fairly simple checklist to apply when we’re talking about the expectations we hold for other people, but how do we evaluate the expectations we hold for ourselves?
Linda is an avid mountain biker. She has traveled around the world, riding for both pleasure and participating in competitions. It’s more than just a passion for Linda, it’s a way of life. Last year, she turned fifty and, more and more, she’s been noticing aches and pains that were never there before. Over the years, she has taken some epic falls and suffered some pretty serious injuries. Her doctor recently told her that if she doesn’t let up on the gas, she’s going to do permanent damage to her knees and her spine. None of this sits well with Linda. Like many of us, Linda simply doesn’t accept that her body is aging, and she expects it to continue performing the way she wants it to, despite the rigors she puts it through. Is it a reasonable expectation?
Evaluating expectations we hold of ourselves can be trickier than evaluating expectations we hold of others. When we measure an expectation of someone else, that person can acknowledge that they understand the expectation, that they’re willing to meet it, and that they’re capable of meeting it. After that, whether they rise to the expectation or not is on them. When evaluating an expectation of ourselves, we have only ourselves to be accountable to. It can be tempting to rationalize and justify behavior that puts us at odds with our expectations or, as in Linda’s case, drives us to pursue unreasonable ones.
Let’s go through the checklist with Linda. She certainly understands the expectation: she wants to keep up her rigorous mountain biking regimen with little to no physical cost. She’s definitely willing. So much so that she’s ignoring the signals her body is giving her and she’s downplaying her doctor’s advice. Now comes the part where Linda hits a crossroad. In order to properly evaluate her expectation, it is crucial that she is one hundred percent honest with herself. Is she capable of continuing to ride in the same way she did when she was twenty-five? Clearly, the honest answer to that question is no. But will Linda be able to get there? Moving on to number four on the checklist might push her in the right direction. Linda’s vision is to live her life at capacity for health and vitality. She might think that riding her mountain bike like a bat out of hell is her idea of health and vitality, but that’s going to fall apart when she’s looking at a double knee replacement and multiple surgeries to fuse her spine together. The honest evaluation is that Linda is no longer capable of riding the way she would like to. That may be a hard pill for Linda to swallow, but when she accepts the reality of the situation, she can adjust her expectation and open herself to possibilities that she couldn’t see before. She can look at nutrition and round out her exercise routine to include a protocol that will strengthen her knees and back. She can get involved with youth organizations where she can coach and mentor young people new to the sport. Honestly evaluating her expectation and coming to the conclusion that it’s an unreasonable one doesn’t mean she can never ride her bike again. It simply means she needs to dial it down a notch or two and pay attention to the signals her body is giving her.
It’s not easy to accept that our body and the way it performs will evolve over time. Which makes it all the more crucial to be absolutely honest when evaluating expectations we hold for ourselves and our bodies. We dive into expectations in the Power Series. Click HERE to learn more and sign up!