Whatever happens in the world is real, what one thinks should have happened is projection. We suffer more from our fictitious illusion and expectations of reality.
I generally undertake ambitious goals and set high expectations for myself. With a dedicated approach to planning, preparation, and problem solving, I have also experienced many significant successes along the way. This has resulted in my own raising of the bar, and also others on occasion establishing some expectations of me as well. I know I have the best insight into what expectations are reasonable given all the factors, and ultimately I should be most concerned with the expectations I determine for myself.
Even so, frequently I thrive on these challenges and my growth is enhanced from the experience. On occasion, setting the expectation too high or mitigating factors result in what seems like failure, which can lead to disappointment, frustration, or even shame. Sometimes this happens amidst an actual success which simply didn’t reach the levels of lofty expectations. I don’t consider this healthy or appropriate, which encourages me to seek proper perspective on the process.
I believe I benefit from target objectives to encourage me to strive to achieve, even as the real goal is to work the balance of giving my best performance and effort in any situation. Simultaneously, that process is based on the goal of improving in the “practice makes progress” mindset I so often encourage. Unfortunately, it is rarely a simple situation, as we do not always have control or even influence on many of the factors which greatly affect results and in the comparative metrics of expectations.
It is essential, in my opinion, to factor in an understanding of how to measure yourself for the aspects you can directly control and to a lesser extent those you may influence while allowing for adjustments based on the mitigating factors of those things outside of your control.
As an example, I’d like to look at a race I am preparing to run on June 20 which I ran several years ago. I wrote then of the powerful goal setting benefits and realities in “Lessons on the Road Race to the Summit of Mt. Washington.”
Last year, I had a tremendous training period and was ready to showcase a strong performance in the road race on Mt. Washington (also known as “The Rockpile”) when the event was understandably cancelled during Covid-19 challenges. I deferred my entry and thought to return this year possibly stronger.
My training through the end of March suggested as much, but then an unanticipated and significant abdominal surgery abruptly ended my training and put a healing process into the journey. Suddenly an opportunity to travel to Oregon and be matched with my new guide dog Swirl pushed that back even further, such that it was end of May when I could start training for this challenging race with relentless elevation. Determined to at least attempt to catch up, I pushed my training a little much and strained my right calf resulting in yet another lost week. So here with one week to go, I’ve had precious little training after several months hiatus from running and a significant surgery.
Obviously I must temper my expectations to the reality of my present situation. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to challenge myself–simply that I have to find the delicate balance of a healthy challenge which respects my vastly reduced readiness, much of which was beyond my reasonable ability to control.
Added to this is the most challenging aspect anytime this mountain is involved, which is simply the unpredictable nature of the weather. With highest ever recorded temperatures at 73 degrees, my last run of the race nearly achieved that record and added immense humidity. This time we could discover a surprise snowstorm or extreme winds. Those unknowns would change expectations dramatically and should thus influence my response to any results accordingly.
This is the final point in setting expectations and then deciding how we respond to the ultimate results. With the dynamically changing reality of factors, we should be willing to adjust our expectations accordingly. If we do not adjust the target as we acknowledge key factors changing, we set ourselves up for the undeserved negative reactions which might result. So I’ll run my race; I know I cannot make up for the lost preparation and that I simply will run more slowly and with less endurance. This likely will require a few walking breaks along the spine of that impressive peak. I know every unexpected weather-related impact will be harder for me to manage.
I also know that I have past experience with this mountain, a great teammate guiding me again, and that with all my hiking experience, the worst case scenario in this is hiking with the best footing I experience in the White Mountains! I’ve set my pace expectations accordingly and will follow that up with the most important goal of intending to savor the experience or sharing time with a good friend in a beautiful location as we strive to test ourselves to grow strong physically and mentally.