For I can’t remember how long, one of my favorite sayings has been: “The biggest driver in unhappiness and dissatisfaction is not so much WHAT happens, but the gap between your EXPECTATION of what you thought should happen – and what actually happened.”
My friend (and amazing coach) Trish Ring posted this on her Facebook page: “If it feels urgent, it’s probably neurotic. Important is rarely urgent. (Unless you’re on the way to the hospital.) Because the Universe takes its time.“
Thank you Trish.
So here’s the great news about expectations. You may not get what you expected, but that doesn’t mean what you get is bad. Better yet, you can CHOOSE to change your expectations whenever you want.
So where are expectation gaps impacting how much you love what you do?
Something as minor as expecting to get a certain number of downloads of your eBook – and not getting them – can cause an expectation gap. Or expecting to get a raise and not getting one.
If you’re feeling unhappy or dissatisfied and are wondering whether it means you don’t love your work, your career or your business, take the time to really sit with that feeling. Then ask yourself (and better yet write this down):
- What are you really unhappy about?
- What were you expecting to happen? Or what did you think “should” happen?
- What actually did happen?
Then, put your expectation of what “should have happened” to the side for a minute and look at your current situation in a new light:
- What are the actual circumstances?
- What about the actual circumstances do you like or not like?
- How do the actual circumstances really impact your work/your career/your business/your life overall?
Now, bring back your previous expectation about what “should have happened”:
- Does that expectation still hold the same charge for you?
- What were you making that expectation mean about your work/career/business that really wasn’t true?
- What new expectation (or thought/goal overall – you may not want another expectation!) would you prefer to have now and moving forward?
Here’s an example. You could be expecting to get a raise at work during your next review. But you don’t. This creates an expectation gap. You can make it mean that your boss doesn’t appreciate you, you’re not good enough, your job sucks and you hate it anyways, you should leave this job, you’d be happier elsewhere, etc., etc.
You could let this feeling fester and fester until you convince yourself of all the stuff you’re making it mean – and quit your job.
But if you take the time to examine the real circumstances vs. the expectation gap, you might realize that you actually love your day to day job. It’s not the job you’re unhappy with at all, and you certainly don’t want to leave. What you are actually unhappy about is not getting the raise.
Now that you know this, you can make better choices about what to do next in a clean and clear way.
For example, you can ask your boss why you didn’t get a raise (maybe it’s because they really value you, but the business had a slow quarter),find out what you might need to do to get a raise in the future, or explore similar jobs that pay more.
The reality is that we all have expectations, but life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect. But by taking the time to really notice when we’re feeling unhappy and dissatisfied, and exploring what’s really going on, we can avoid the danger of the expectation gap.
And by doing that, we can avoid making the expectation gap mean something that isn’t true – and avoid taking actions that lead us away from loving what we do.
Grab my new eBook, Love Your Business, where I talk about how to set the right business expectations – and outline the seven steps new life coaches need to take to transition from their 9-5 job and design, market & run a life coaching business you love: