opinion, work

Managing Expectations

We all compare ourselves to others. This may not be a constant state, but when you see your friends getting jobs, having kids etc. it is difficult not to look at yourself and check-in with your “progress”.

Some do this in the way to achieve more, but we all have to realize that experience, time, and skill sets are not equal and that there is no set timeline. Just because somebody from your age group is having a kid or is working in a good position, doesn’t mean that you have to be- or even that you are capable to be doing those things and that is okay.

Age has a funny way of quantifying our progress. Almost like checkpoints we expect ourselves and others to reach a certain objective by a certain time. Some believe that they should be married by 25, others want nothing more than to be managers as soon as humanly possible, the younger the better. Are both right? Are both wrong? There is no single answer.

If you are ready, honestly ready, to do whatever it is you want or think you want to do, great. If not, manage your expectations and cater your “timeline” to you. The honesty part of this is the most important. Just because somebody else has done it, doesn’t mean you can or should too. If you have never managed before, I doubt you are able to become the next Prime Minister. (An exaggerated example… but you get the point.)
There is no exact age for life events. Some life events won’t happen to you and that is okay. You don’t have to ever get married, have kids, be a CEO, make 6 figures, buy a house etc. I understand that there is pressure externally for these things be it from family or friends due to culture, personal beliefs, or lack of understanding- but don’t allow those external expectations to become your internal expectations.

Easier said than done. It is hard to look at a peer hitting a mark and not feeling like you should/deserve/want to be there. We are taught to compete- to be number one since childhood. This reality hurts most fresh out of school before you realise that life is not the product of a scorecard. Some people get hired and go into work right away and some give up their field right after grad. You want to be the top of the class, best at sport etc. We all want awards, accolades, and peer envy. In my opinion, it is the most toxic thing people get from formal education: the need to “out-do” others, the idea of self-entitlement and the inability to manage one’s expectations “But I did this”- wonderful. But they still got the job, got married, had a kid (whatever the goal is).
We come by it honestly, the overlap in what we expect from our peers and ourselves but in the real world there is no rubric to follow. Watching somebody who you believe is equal footing to you do things that you have dreamed of doing, but you are just not ready for is hard if you aren’t willing to humble yourself.

It is equally hard to listen to the expectations others have for you or themselves. To listen to what your goals should be as if they are able to be defined by anyone else. Listening to their goals and aspirations and looking at yours like they are suddenly worthless. Often times we don’t actually know what that other person even does- I am a Props Technician with Cirque du Soleil, people couldn’t care less about what I actually do. “What the hell does a Props Technician do? BUT CIRQUE DU SOLEIL! I’ve heard of that! That is amazing.” Again, touching on the notoriety of the position as mentioned in my previous post. If someone in your peer group gets a position that immediately sounds impressive, others readjust their goals.

It is important to separate yourself from the goals and accomplishments of others. There will ALWAYS be somebody better than you, smarter than you, better looking etc. You will never stop competing if you don’t manage the expectations others have of you or the internal expectations engrained into you by others.

This world of instant gratification has plagued us with wanting to rush through things. Bulldoze our way through and do things in a very short timeframe. If I were to have taken the Assistant Head of Department job at 24, I am going to cap out that ladder much earlier than retirement- then what? What am I going to work towards then for the couple decades I have left? We want to be idolized and liked- which is fine if you are truly doing it for you.

Look at your life as a completely separate entity to the lives of others because they are separate. What do you want? Where do you want to end up? Live your life for you. Not your bragging Grandmother at the knitting circle, not your parents, your peers, or your Instagram followers. Your timeline is for you. Expect yourself to be exactly where you need to be. Where you want to be. Whenever it happens. If-ever it happens.The paths for others are not necessarily the paths for you. Don’t let anybody tell you anything different, including yourself.

“I am not in this world to live up to your expectations and you are not in the world to live up to mine.” -Bruce Lee

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