How to Handle Failed, Unrealistic and Negative Expectations in Optimal Ways

Brian Tracy

Winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event.


The Extraordinary Power of Expectation

Every single day we hold onto certain kinds of expectations about ourselves, about others, and about our circumstances. Whether we realize it or not, these expectations directly influence our lives. In fact, you always hold onto conscious and unconscious expectations in various situations.

The expectations you hold onto influence where your focus and attention goes. As a result these expectations become targets, or in other words plans for the future. In fact, these expectations directly influence what you WILL or WON’T attempt to do, and essentially what you BELIEVE is possible at any one moment in time. Moreover, your expectations influence your attitude, decisions, behaviors, perspectives, as well as your interactions with others.

So as you can see, our expectations direct our lives in numerous ways. This is all well and good of course if we hold onto expectations that serve our greater good. However, for many people this unfortunately isn’t the case. Often our expectations are flawed because they actually delete and distort our interpretations of reality to our detriment.

Emotions Influence Your Expectations

Consider for a moment the emotion of fear, worry and anxiety. Whenever you experience these emotions you are at that very moment creating a set of negative expectations. For instance, when you worry about something, you are at that moment expecting that something will go wrong. And with this expectation at the forefront of your mind, you are now going to make certain decisions and take specific kinds of actions that meet that expectation.

Now of course whatever you are worried about might just be a figment of your imagination. In fact, often our worries never come to fruition. However, we don’t tend to believe that at the time, and as a result our negative expectations lead to certain behaviors, decisions, actions and interactions that might not serve our greater good. In fact, those negative expectations might actually lead us to unfavorable circumstances that otherwise we might never have experienced because our expectations of course direct our focus and attention.

The emotions you experience throughout the day will provide you with insights into your current set of expectations. As such, whenever you experience a particular emotion it is helpful to ask yourself:

What emotion am I experiencing?

What am I expecting as a result?

Is this expectation helpful or unhelpful?

Does this expectation get me closer to my desired outcome?

You of course no doubt have certain goals and objectives that you would like to achieve in any given situation. However, your emotions can often cloud your judgment and therefore lead you down the wrong path. You must therefore always be conscious of your emotions and identify whether or not the expectations these emotions are creating are helpful or unhelpful. Are they moving you towards your desired goals and objectives, or are they pulling you away from them?

Expecting with Certainty Creates Reality

It is said that what we expect with certainly creates our reality. But even more accurately, expecting something with certainly actually influences what we believe about that situation and what we believe about ourselves within that particular situation.

It is important to always be aware of the expectations that you are holding onto. As such, try being more vigilant about your expectations coming into any situation. Often ask yourself:

What do I expect of myself in this particular situation?

What specifically do I expect will happen?

Is it reasonable to hold onto these kinds of expectations?

Is it helpful? Does it support my goals and objectives?

Keeping these questions at the forefront of your mind at all times will allow you to direct your mind in more empowering and positive ways throughout the day.

The Expectations of High Achievers

Because our expectations tend to create our reality, or at least influence our behavior in a multitude of ways, it’s interesting to quickly take a look at what factors potentially distinguish high achievers from the masses.

High achievers often have very ambitious expectations and targets. They are big thinkers and visionaries who are prepared to work hard to achieve their goals and objectives. They tend to set challenging deadlines that keep them motivated. And they live with a sense of urgency. Furthermore, they thrive on criticism and will often tackle difficult challenges in order to prove others wrong.

High achievers of course are only human. And they therefore do at times hold onto expectations that might not serve their greater good. However, what separates high achievers from others is that they quickly learn to effectively manage these expectations. In fact, high achievers have a knack for handling failed, unrealistic and negative expectations in positive ways — helping them overcome emotional roadblocks that often prevent others from moving forward.

For the remainder of this discussion let’s focus on how to specifically handle the triad of failed, unrealistic and negative expectations so that you can finally begin taking charge of your life and moving yourself forward towards your goals, rather than away from them.

Understanding Your Personal Expectations


Handling Failed Expectations

A failed expectation is when you expected something that didn’t quite pan out as intended. In other words, you might have set a goal that you believed you would achieve, but with everything that transpired, your goal didn’t quite come to fruition.

Often failed expectations result from mistakes you have made or simply a lack of experience and/or knowledge.

During times such as these it’s easy to feel disappointed in yourself and maybe even fearful that you might never achieve your desired objectives. However, it is important to keep your expectations in-check and avoid succumbing to limiting emotions.

When a failed expectation arises you must understand that you are not inadequate or incapable. In fact, a failed expectation does not mean that you are a failure. It’s simply a failed attempt that can be rectified with another try. To help you better clarify this in your mind, say to yourself:

The result was simply not what I expected…

This result doesn’t change who I am or what I am capable of…

This is only one failed attempt that I must learn and grow from…

Every failed attempt brings with it lessons. You must learn from this experience before moving forward once again.

When dealing with a failed expectation, it is helpful to never expect very specific results based on a set of preset conditions. When we are very specific in our expectations we don’t allow enough margin for error when circumstances change.

Often the errors we make allow us to alter our course and direction in more helpful ways, but we must first be ready to make this change. And for this to happen we must be flexible, and we should of course hold onto flexible expectations. Ask yourself:

How flexible are my expectations?

What if conditions change?

How will my expectations need to shift as a result?

And when conditions do change, ask yourself:

What have I learned from this experience?

What do these results tell me?

How must I now adapt to these changing conditions?

What new expectations should I create?

How must I now move forward specifically as a result of these new expectations?

Staying flexible means that you are always willing to try something new especially when what you expected just doesn’t pan out. At the same time stay focused on the bigger picture and on what’s most important. Getting lost in the details could potentially derail your efforts. However, staying focused on the bigger picture (your major goal) will allow you to keep moving in the right direction even when circumstances change. It will also allow you to manage your expectations far more effectively.

In order to help you manage failed expectations more effectively, it’s important to never complain or make excuses about your circumstances. What happened, happened. You must now deal with the situation and move on.

This is no time to get discouraged either. In fact, you are most likely to feel discouraged when you are emotionally attached to your outcome. Just let go of all expectations of how things should or ought to be. This will help you calm your emotions.

It’s of course also critical to understand that what worked in the past may very well not work right now. Holding onto an expectation that “the past always equals the future” will only discourage you when things don’t pan out. Instead, you must maintain a flexible approach at all times and adapt to changing conditions and circumstances.

Finally, another trap that many of us often fall into is thinking that we deserve specific results and outcomes. Things are never certain. Or to put it another way, things are never as certain as we expect them to be. It’s very possible that even though things didn’t pan out as you had expected that you are still on the right track. Just maybe your timing was off, and as a result you need to make the necessary adjustments moving forward.

Handling Failed Expectations


Handling Unrealistic Expectations

Often without even realizing it we tend to hold onto unrealistic expectations about ourselves, about others and about the situation we find ourselves in. These unrealistic expectations distort our perception of reality and can often lead us down the wrong path and away from the goals and objectives we are wanting to achieve.

Unrealistic expectations are often the result of unjustified assumptions and conclusions we often make. We don’t always have all the information we need to make an effective decision, and as a result we fill in the blanks to help us make sense of the situation. However, if these blanks are inaccurate, then this can often distort reality. For instance, your worries are often built upon a set of unrealistic expectations and beliefs that influence how you will behave in any situation. But often they are not based on reality, but rather your understanding of reality.

You need to be very vigilant and aware of the conclusions you are making at any moment in time to successfully handle your unrealistic expectations. And it all begins with asking the right kinds of questions. For instance, in order to release unrealistic expectations about a specific situation (for instance when you worry about something), ask yourself:

What do I believe about this situation?

What do I expect will happen?

What assumptions am I potentially making about this?

Is it reasonable to expect these things?Are these expectations based on fact?

What set of expectations would be more helpful in this situation?

At other times we hold unreasonable expectations of ourselves. We expect much more from ourselves than we can realistically fulfill, and this often leads to disappointment. It’s of course important to challenge yourself and keep pushing yourself to higher levels of productivity and performance, however within reason. Ask yourself:

What’s unreasonable to expect of myself?

What’s unreasonable to expect of myself in this situation?

What are more reasonable expectations in this situation?

Finally, our expectations of others can also be very unreasonable and unrealistic. These expectations can often put a lot of pressure on people to perform to a level where they meet those expectations to their detriment.

Of course challenging people and pushing them to raise their personal standards can be very empowering. However, everything must be approached within reason, or otherwise relationships can be ruined very quickly.

In order to avoid putting unreasonable and unnecessary expectations onto other people, ask yourself three quick questions:

What’s unreasonable to expect of this person given their ability and current circumstances?

Would I expect the same of myself in this situation?

Have I personally lived up to these kinds of expectations before?

Answering these questions will help you to put your expectations into proper perspective and allow you to create a new set of expectations that can help you empower others in a more positive way.

Handling Unrealistic Expectations


Handling Negative Expectations

Negative expectations often manifest from pessimism and doubt. These doubts lead to hesitancy because they create “failure scenarios” in your mind. You expect to fail, and therefore all your decisions and actions will undoubtedly lead you away from your goals and towards failure and mistakes.

Curbing these doubts is never easy because we often just don’t have enough confidence and/or resources behind us to develop the necessary belief that we can successfully attain our goal. And as a result this leads to a plethora of negative expectations.

In order to successfully handle these doubts it’s important that you begin challenging your limiting thoughts by asking yourself several important questions:

What do I expect will happen?

How do I know for sure that things will pan out this way?

What if the way I’m thinking about this is completely flawed?

What’s another more empowering way to think about this?

What would [mentor’s name] expect of themselves in this situation?

What if I already had everything I needed to make this work? What would I do as a result?

What’s a new set of expectations that would be more helpful in this situation?

The more you challenge your unhelpful thoughts and doubts, the more confidence you will gain moving forward. However, in order to get to this stage you must of course first recognize the potential consequences of your expectations. You must realize that your doubts will not lead you to the promised land. They will not lead you to your desired outcome. And of course if you’re okay with that, then just keep thinking this way. But if you’re not okay with that, then you must begin shifting your expectations starting today.

In order to develop more positive expectations that will propel you towards your goals it’s important to build anticipation through daydreaming and by holding onto hope for positive outcomes. However, of course at the same time it’s critical to stay grounded and not overreach too far beyond what you’re capable of, because that can eventually lead to failed expectations. In such instances you might want to plan for worst case scenarios. Planning for worst case scenarios can help you to create more realistic and flexible expectations moving forward.

Finally, it is also important to acknowledge and recognize to what extent you play up to other people’s expectations. Other people’s expectations of you might actually be influencing the expectations you have of yourself and of what you believe you’re capable of. If these expectations are hurting you, then maybe it’s time to let them go and begin creating your own set of expectations that will carry you forward towards the attainment of your goals and objectives.

Handling Negative Expectations


Letting Go of Your Expectations

At times the best way to handle negative, unrealistic and failed expectations is to simply let go of all expectations. Yes, just release all expectations you have about your goals, about your future and about all the decisions you will make and actions you will take. Just let them go and hold onto absolutely no expectations at all.

The advantage of holding no expectations is that it will suddenly encourage more spontaneity and creativity. It will allow more room for unexpected and potentially better things to come into your life, and it is also likely to open your mind to new paths, possibilities, perspectives and opportunities.

You see, the thing about expectations is that they often confine us and limit our potential. We expect certain things and as a result we often only get those things and not much else. There is so much more potential within us, however we never really find out what’s there because our expectations limit what we will do at any one moment in time. It is therefore helpful at times to release all expectations and just go with the flow of life. Just be spontaneous and creative and see where life leads you without the pressure of expectation. Who knows, life may very well lead you down a surprising path that you never expected. 🙂

Releasing Expectations


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

How to Handle Negative Expectations

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