Thoughts & Observations

Reasonable Expectations

For a long time, I set my expectations about certain things a bit too high.

When I thought about getting in better shape, I pictured myself both doing yoga every day and hitting the gym to jog and take classes with names like “Ass and Abs” seven days a week.

When I thought about meditating, I pictured myself spending at least 20 to 30 minutes sitting peacefully on a cushion every single day.

In some ways, I thought that if I couldn’t push myself to do things in that much of the extreme, then they weren’t worth doing – they weren’t going to have an impact.

The problem with those expectations, though, was that there was no way for me to actually meet them. I would attempt something, inevitably fall short, feel disappointed in myself, and then give up (or sometimes not even try in the first place).

We think that the point of setting high expectations it to push ourselves to do our best: we thrive on stories of people accomplishing the unreasonable and then push ourselves to get to that unreasonable place immediately.

But the truth is that there are a very few people who accomplish what seem like unreasonable feats from the very beginning.

Running a marathon seems like an unreasonable feat to me. And many people make it look easy when they are actually running the marathon. But by the time they have made to that marathon they have often practiced for months or years. And they most likely didn’t start out running 10 miles every day. They might have started with a simple goal of jogging a quarter of the way around a track.

When I realized that my unreasonable expectations were backfiring and  were actually causing me to get nowhere with some of the things I wanted to do, I sat down and made a chart of the things I wanted to incorporate into my life (meditating, yoga, running, etc.). Next to each thing, I listed my unreasonable expectations: One hour of yoga seven days a week! Classes at the gym five days a week! And then I made another column where I wrote the reasonable counterpoint to all of my unreasonable expectation: yoga two times a week (and even 15 minutes counts), jogging three times a week, etc.

Once I shifted to reasonable expectations, something magic happened: I actually started doing all of these things. In the past six weeks, I went from doing none of the things I wanted to do to meeting all of my reasonable expectations. I’ve lost weight, I’ve seen my muscles start to come back, I’m jogging for longer than I thought I could, I’ve been meditating every day,  and just in general feel better.

And to think that I was depriving myself of all of those things because I felt that the only type of goals that created impact were the unreasonable ones.

Here’s to being reasonable every once in a while.