When is it OK to lower your expectations?

Aim high. That’s what we’re told, right? Do more. Be more. Be all you can be.

There is nothing wrong with setting  #goals. And there’s no harm in sharing inspirational quotes or pinning ‘the top ten traits of super-productive people’ to your Pinterest. I love all that. These things give us a boost, a lift, fresh ideas for living… and help us through the day.

But when does the drive to ‘be our best selves’ become an issue? When does this holy-grail quest to become a hyper-productive person become a problem?

Is it even a problem – or am I just clutching at straws to write a post??

Yes, I think it can be. Personally, I think it’s a big deal when we’re so preoccupied with ticking off our to-do list that we forget to live in the meantime. It’s an issue when we’re still running around at 11pm trying to complete chores so we “don’t have to do them tomorrow” (yet somehow we’re still busybees come 11pm the next evening).

And it’s troubling when we can’t switch off the niggling inner voice that harangues us every time we don’t do what we’d planned. You know – the one that has a dig because you didn’t mop the floor even though you kicked the backside out of the ironing pile. The one that bangs on about you forgetting to empty the fridge on bin night.

The one that bitches because you haven’t made your first million or at least launched a fledgling start up… (“JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter as a single parent so you’re clearly a lazy, unimaginative ne’er-do-well.”)

We all know perfection is unattainable, so why do we set our standards so high?  Why do we, for instance, beat ourselves up because we didn’t get to the gym (again) despite having done a ton of other important, adulty stuff?

If you start to feel restless – worse, guilty – when you chill out for five minutes then it’s probably time to have a word and tell that pesky inner voice to buzz off.

It’s all very well wanting to be more productive, to work smarter, to boss it, etc. etc., but last time I checked there wasn’t a trophy for the person who had the least ‘me-time’ today. No, you’d get the wooden spoon instead for not looking after yourself or enjoying more of life’s pleasures.

As a single parent, I have battled with the toxic combination of little time, high standards, and wanting to do the best for my son.  But I was sick of feeling frazzled and burnt out.

Consequently, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s OK to lower your standards. Not always, no. You don’t want a crappy partner or anything like that. You don’t want to compromise your parenting or sack off things that are important to you or your sense of self. But some things you can certainly care less about or choose not to do… at least not today.

What we choose to drop off our to-do lists, what corners we cut, what life goals we scratch out, is a personal choice. And it’s not about giving up on dreams either. I’m not saying aim low in all aspects of life.

I mean stop for a minute and really think:  am I doing the things that truly matter to me and will enhance my life the most? Can other stuff wait?

It’s about placing fewer demands on yourself and refusing to let a self-blaming voice bully you into never hopping off the hamster-wheel of ‘doing’. Time is not infinite!

It’s also about remembering that one of your dreams is to be happy. Not at some point in the distant future, but now.


16 Replies to “When is it OK to lower your expectations?”

  1. I appreciate where you’re coming from with this concept and I think as long as you’re central point emanates from a personality-driven approach to manifesting a good life then perhaps you’re right on the money with it.
    But the solution to helping one feel like they are living a prosperous life cannot come from asking one to lower expectations. It’s perfectly wonderful to have big desires, – that is our true nature. It is when we don’t understand the difference between “being” and “doing” or how to balance these within ourselves, that we fall into the trap you mentioned.
    Goals and to-do lists are great, but they cannot be our central focus. They are merely tools to enable us to recognise the milestones in our lives as we reach them. Purpose, vision and a dream that encompasses full spectrum wealth is where our main focus ought to be. But that requires a much deeper understanding of the game of life and how to play it 🙂
    However, I commend you for the wonderful encouraging work you’re doing. Keep it up.

    1. thanks so much for commenting. I agree with you. I think we are both coming from the perspective of evaluating what we are doing and if it’s making us happy. If not, we need to do something else instead x

  2. Oh I learnt this lesson quickly. My partner only got 7 days paternity leave so I was on my own from day 8. I was so determined to be the most amazing person ever. I sterilised all the bottles, put tea in the slow cooker, hoovered, did the dishes and had a proper lunch. I was so exhausted I swore never to do it again lol!

    1. It’s so hard when they are little and I think it’s hard not to feel that pressure of wanting to be supermum. Sounds like you did an amazing job x

  3. What a honest and brilliant post. There is far too much pressure to be supermum. I figure as long as my little one is happy and heathy (ish – she has some health issues) I’m doing just fine!

  4. I totally get this! I am not so bad now (even though i still gets those ‘tut tut’ voice in my head. I had to give myself a real talking too a while back when i was just juggling to many balls and crashed. I have lowered my expectations to a minimum and now i’m enjoying life much better.

    1. I am glad to hear it. I have really started to follow my own advice too and pick my battles when it comes to choosing things to care about!

  5. I love setting high goals and often times when I was working my bosses noticed if they gave me a challenge I worked more efficiently. It was a game to me can I conquer the challenge set in front of me. It is also why I am working on a bachelors to be a fiancial analyst. I love the challenge. If I don’t complete my to do list well there is another day. You just have to take one day at a time.

    1. That’s great that you are doing your Batchelor’s. I totally get where you are coming from. I am actually the same sort of person (I did a law degree when my son was a baby) but I was still beating myself up about not doing x, y, z. So I am kind of saying, be realistic but most importantly be kind to yourself. I think you will nail it x

  6. When you look back on life you aren’t going to care about all the floors you didnt’t wash, or the laundry you didn’t get to fold, what you will miss is all the experiences you didn’t have because you were so worried about all the things you always had to do. It’s okay to let things slide every now and again. This was a great reminder of that.

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