I like to think of myself as a realist. My glass may be half full or half empty. I’ll let you know after I find out what’s in there. Wine? Dang, that glass is half empty. Fill ‘er up, eh?
As a realist, there are things I understand. Not everyone is going to like me. Nothing is perfect — not a job, not a friendship, not a house, not a spouse. Nothing lasts forever — not possessions, not happiness, not life, and certainly not cake.
For these reasons and more, realists sometimes are mistaken for pessimists. But as a realist, I also understand that everywhere I go, most people are going to like me. And my job, friendships, house, and Bubba are really awesome. In addition, most things will last just long enough to get what you need out of them, including grief, strife, childhood, and life. Even cake.
Another misconception is that people with low expectations harbor low standards. While I know what superb results look like, I know there are times I just won’t achieve them. To avoid stress, it is in my best interest to be realistic.
Perfection is where high standards meet high expectations and can lead to procrastination and eventually paralysis. The dreaded 3 P’s. Look it up.
Take my last month at work and, for all I know, the next month or more. We had a software conversion. They tell me I am a super-user, which means all questions and issues from my department funnel through me. I work in a customer service position. Our software conversion is causing issues not only for internal users, but the people we serve. There are inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and unmet expectations. There’s that word again.
My email and voicemail inboxes are brimming with unanswered messages. I am not meeting my high standards of customer service. I am afraid I won’t help my co-workers feel comfortable in the new system. I have lost management of my time. My long hours are shrinking my personal time; my real life.
And on one particular day I crashed. I threw a hissy fit right a my desk. Papers were thrown. Tears were spilt. Someone in the neighboring office may have freaked out. Just a little.
The biggest problem was the level at which I had placed my expectations. I expected June to feel normal. I expected a manageable routine by now. I expected sleep to come 7 hours at a time. After five weeks in the new system, I expected to meet my high standards. When they weren’t, I imploded. Or exploded as the case may have been.
It is time for a game plan. And while I don’t completely have that plan figured out, chances are it is going to include lowering my expectations.
The difference between expectations and standards is that you can lower your expectations without sacrificing your self-esteem. I don’t think we can say the same of our standards. While our circumstances are often out of our control, both of these attributes are not; we can set them deliberately.
I have set my standards sky-high. Due to circumstances out of my control, I just can’t meet them . . .
. . . yet.
11 thoughts on “High Standards + Low Expectations = Peace of Mind”
Well, it looks to me like you are a smarter person than say, 98% of the world. You have it figured out, just not in time to avoid the hissy fit. 🙂 Wish I could have been a fly on the wall. Sometimes they are just plain necessary. I thought it was the Buddhists that say “expectation is the cause of suffering” You do your best, not much more you can do. Perfection is the death of creativity and forward motion. You said this all so well. Very smart person, you are. 🙂
I try not to get worked up about work. I’m there for a paycheck. Companies have no loyalty any more. I’ll do my job to the best of my ability, but I don’t stress about it if things don’t go right.
I do tend to take a lot (probably too much) identity from my job. There is a myth that this is only a male issue.
Ha! Not by a long shot.
Five weeks is a long time to still be adjusting to a new system, I would have been right with you sharing that hissy fit. I bet you felt a lot better after you got all that frustration out. It’s very true we can lower our expectations without lowering our standards. I’ve had to learn this the hard way as things now take me so much longer to accomplish than they used to.
I feel your pain. We went through a system change three years ago and it was as bad as what you describe here. Things that had been simple before suddenly became complicated, when not downright impossible.
As Twindaddy says don’t get too worked up. Unless it’s your own company at some point you have to remind yourself that it’s not your name on the front door.
Do your best with what you’re given, point out the problems to your superiors, but remember that it’s not your job to fix it all by yourself and you’ll sleep much better.
Someone once said, “Keep your expectations low. That way, you’re always pleasantly surprised.”