How Unrealistic Expectations Set You Up for Failure


Joseph Abrahantes

Children and adults alike have fallen victim to setting unrealistic expectations, a harmful habit that is hard to break.

We have all made promises to ourselves, which could range from improving our health to achieving success in our respective fields. We often push the limits and set insanely high goals that ultimately lead to a letdown. It is important to instead outline goals with a positive mindset to avoid the frustrations that come with failing to meet expectations.

The exasperation we feel is caused by the unrealistic nature of said expectations. When these false expectations enter your view, it is hard to set your sights on anything less. They leave no space for error and could blind you from what truly matters. In most cases, these false ideas lead to more complications down the road, leaving the original problem without a solution.

“While it is true that being motivated and applying yourself can lead you to success, it would be wrong to think that mindset applies to everything in life. It is simply impossible,” freshman Gianna Figueroa said.

Say you are striving to better your health. If you do not hit your target by the deadline, you may feel defeated. It could seem like your work had all gone down the drain. However, you would be missing the bigger picture: you are inching ever closer to your target. From setting your mind to this aspiration to taking true action, you are one step closer to your desired state.

The habit many of us have created by setting these irrationally high standards for ourselves is, for the most part, taught. We have all heard the idea that anything can be accomplished if you set your mind to it. However, as painful as it may be, this is not always true. While it is great to be optimistic and confident, some factors are quite simply out of our control, and relying on chance will often leave us disappointed.

It is great to have goals and expectations in mind; however, when those goals become extreme and irrational, you must have standards to protect yourself from that toxic mindset,”

— freshman Gianna Figueroa

Yet another toxic aspect of unrealistic expectations is the struggle to stray away from them. The false notion many of us have come to believe is that having high, virtually unachievable standards helps us stay productive and on-task. We may feel that letting go of these expectations will lead to laziness. Of course, this is not true. In fact, the complete opposite is true. Feelings of lethargy and avolition are largely a product of failed aspirations.

“I struggled with setting unrealistic expectations for a long while. I kept being disappointed, and I was sick of it. Unfortunately, it was difficult to let go of something I had normalized for such a long time,” freshman Valentina Jimenez said.

It is not easy to restrict yourself from having false expectations as they happen almost subconsciously. If you find that you are setting unachievable goals for yourself, practice these approaches:

Double-Standard Technique:

Imagine your friends or family have set the same goals as you. Take a step back and think about what advice you would give them had they asked you for your opinion, then use that same advice for yourself. One is more likely to say something reasonable and logical if applied to someone else. To make this method more effective, reflect on what you learned after using it and use that knowledge to further aid you in the future.

Compassion and Flexibility:

The internal dialogue many of us have experienced goes something like this: “If I am hard on myself, it will push me to perform and become sharper”. However, self-criticism is ineffective and creates a pattern that is difficult to break. Having a compassionate spirit towards yourself and others is an important attribute, especially when making plans. It is possible that the objective at hand may be challenging for you, so you must be lenient and understanding about your situation. Once again, be sure to reflect on your experiences after practicing both qualities to see how your outlook has improved since you began.

“Always thinking that your achievements aren’t sufficient will lead you to to never feel accomplished, even when you done more than enough,” freshman Genesis Javier said.

Viewing your ambitions from a different angle could be insightful and aid you in setting more realistic expectations. Graciousness and understanding are key to achieving your goals, and beating yourself up will only bring you down. So, next time you are setting an objective, remember to set reasonable resolutions for yourself, and you will surely be led to success.