Dealing With Expectations Part One: Others

In the past few weeks I have talked to people from different walks of life: medicine, teaching, project management, and finance.  Almost to a person they have talked about the stress coming from increased expectations or demands.

(c) Orlando florin Rosu/Thinkstock

This is some of what I have heard.

Paperwork is crushing me.  Sometimes I have to choose between teaching and completing the required documentation.  I can’t keep up this pace, and I feel like the kids aren’t getting the education they need.”

“The number of patients assigned to us has become like an assembly line.  When a patient needs extra help, we fall behind.  We don’t get a break for the entire shift.  Exhausted people don’t provide the best nursing care.”

“We have had so many layoffs, yet the workload remains the same.  We can’t continue to do more with less.  People are so often sick from burnout.  It used to be fun.  Now it’s stressful all the time.”

Other Expectations

  • Children expect their parents to take them everywhere.
  • Older parents expect their children to drop everything to help them, forgetting that they have other responsibilities.
  • People expect their partner to meet all their emotional needs.
  • Friends make unreasonable demands.
  • Commercials tell us that we should own whatever they are selling.

Impossible expectations result in distress and exhaustion.  What can you do?

7 secrets to resilience in the midst of crushing expectations

  • Change Circumstances – Is a change in career or environment possible?  Advisable?  Do careful research.  Change does not always solve the problem.
  • Change Relationships – Eliminate toxic relationships, and observe strict boundaries around some others.
  • Restrict Media – Avoid watching or reading anything that puts unnecessary demands on you.  You do not need to go through life feeling guilty or inadequate because of outside influences.
  • Clarify Priorities – Everyone has the same 168 hours in a week.  Decide what is most important and live that out.  Strive for quality over quantity. This will require some difficult choices.  Be realistic as you plan your time.

Do this exercise with your partner, manager, or co-workers too.  Everything can’t be the top priority.  Do not succumb to constant overwork to get things done.  It is okay for a time, but not sustainable in the long term.  At best, you will deliver less than your best.  Worse, you could get sick and deliver nothing.

  • Delegate – If people report to you, delegate to them.  If not, delegate some things to the low- or no-priority list.
  • Organize – Write everything down to keep track of it.  Put what you want to do today on a separate, smaller list so you don’t constantly see everything else.
  • Focus – Multi-tasking and scattered thinking create stress and slow you down.  Focusing on one thing at a time accomplishes more.  Try it for short periods and lengthen over time to build your focus muscle.

Question:  What type of outside expectations are you experiencing right now?  What ways have you found to deal with them?  To leave a comment, click here.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jill

    I really like this post. Especially great point about the possibility for changing your environment as a resilience solution. I really like what you say about it sometimes being advisable and other times, perhaps not. I see so many cases, as I am sure you do too, where a knee-jerk reaction is to try a change, when it may not be the answer at all. Sometimes we end up with the same issues in different wrappings, unless we changed something else – maybe of ourselves, first. Thanks, Kathleen!!

    • Kathleen Thompson

      So true, Jill. Quite often what needs to change is us.