What do you want to happen to you? How do you envision your desired outcome? How do you set up expectations?
In my experience, setting up expectations is one of the most sensitive areas in our lives. Because every time you set yourself up to something, your surroundings are changing. I find this amazing. You start to look at the world differently, because you expect it to behave in a certain way and the world actually start to change. But I find more than often this change to be the result of the way you set up your expectations. To be more precise, the changing speed of the world is directly influenced by the size of your expectations. Aim for less, and your world will change slower. Think big, and your world will explode.
One Step At A Time
Suppose you have a blog. You are comfortable writing, you have a decent posting routine and already started to think about monetization. But you can’t really ask money from your blog, unless you have a decent traffic. So, you set up some expectations here. Let’s say: I want 50 views per article. Not bad for a new blog.
In a certain amount of time, your articles are starting to get that. They are making 50-60 views. Interesting. Your expectations have been met. Now you can start putting some advertising on your blog, you can even try a little bit of AdSense and get a grasp of this entire monetization thing.
Sooner than you think, you realize that 50-60 views per blog post is not enough. It might be good for some peanuts money, but not enough for paying a vacation in Hawaii. So, you raise the stake. You set up higher expectations: 500-600 hits for every blog post.
In another certain amount of time, you get that too. Not only you get 500-600 views per article, but you get some residual traffic too, from your older posts. And that traffic starts to add up. It’s getting better and better. Now you make enough money from your blog to afford a nice two weeks vacation on an exotic island.
But then again, you realize that this can be better. Instead of spending only two weeks on an exotic island you start thinking why not spending half a year there? And the other half on some mountains resort? You have enough experience in blogging and now you know how to do it. So, you raise it again: 5000-6000 views per blog post.
Again, in a certain amount of time, you get there. Now you make so much money from your blog that your entire lifestyle has changed. You live where you want on this planet, when you want. Travel is something natural and your money problems are gone forever. Your expectations have been met, once again.
From the moment you set up your initial expectations, of 50-60 views per article, up to the moment you get 5000-6000 views per article, several years have passed.
Now suppose you have the same blog, you are the same person, only you set up different expectations. Instead of aiming at 50-60 views for your articles, you aim directly for 5000-6000 views. What happens now?
Well, the same thing: in a certain amount of time, your expectations will be met. You will reach that goal. The only difference is that you won’t take those baby steps.
From the moment you set up your initial expectations, of 5000-6000 views per article, up to the moment you get 5000-6000 views per article, a certain time have passed.
But, (yes, there is a “but” here), in my direct experience, this period of time is less than the years in the baby step approach.
And I’m supporting my affirmation with this very blog. When I started it, a year ago, I aimed for 100k visits each month. I’m there now. That was my expectation. I didn’t even care when I had fewer than that. I never acknowledged the gradual increase, month by month. I watched the numbers, of course, but I didn’t acknowledged the gradual, small increase, as a success. Instead, I was focused on the bigger numbers. And I was also focused on writing the best content I can, sharing my knowledge and promoting it. I only did 2 milestones: one at the first 6 months of blogging and the other at the first year of blogging.
So, what’s the difference? Why so many people are setting for those baby steps? Why don’t they start thinking and acting “big” from the first time? Here’s what I think about this.
Fear of Failure
People are afraid of taking big steps because they are afraid of making big failures. Somehow, a smaller failure sounds like something more bearable. I’m puzzled by that, to be honest. A failure is a failure. There is no quality of it. You either succeed, you either don’t. A smaller failure is just a social construct. You’re accepted if you fail under a certain threshold. If you go beyond that, you’re not accepted anymore. Regardless of the fact you failed both times.
Fear of making mistakes was definitely something that kept me away for achieving some of my earlier goals. I was so convinced that if I will fail “small” nothing will really happen to me. Well, I did failed small a couple of times. And guess what: nothing was really happened to me.
Living In Your Comfort Zone
We’re designed to act and evolve in a circle of safety. We call this the comfort zone. Setting up great expectations forces you to leave this comfort zone and act on moving sands. Leaving the comfort zone is difficult. It’s costly. It’s demanding. So, why leave it if you can act from the inside and take only baby steps?
Acting too much inside your comfort zone will make you weak. Setting up expectations too close to your comfort zone will never create breakthroughs. You will reach those expectations and you will be successful, no doubt about it. But in my personal experience, a linear evolution will eventually lead to stagnation. Big achievements require big leaps not baby steps.
Overprotecting Your Self-Esteem
We cannot function properly without self-esteem. We need this as a fuel for our own identity. If we cannot properly identify ourselves with inner models we value, then our acts will start to be confusing. Self-esteem is something we tend to protect with great vigor. It’s deep down at the core of our values. The moment we lose our self-esteem we are literally at lose, embracing any possible and available behavior.
Any disruptive attempt will shake this self-esteem. Both ways. A huge expectation will boost your self-esteem. And a huge failure will bring it down. So, in order to keep our self-esteem within reasonable figures, we avoid big expectations. We put a layer of safety around this core value and try to protect it. Only we can’t really protect self-esteem by avoiding big expectations. It’s like trying to build up muscle by reading fitness books.
Setting smaller expectations is usually a sign of a short attention span. We cannot focus on long term tasks, so we chose something smaller. After each small victory we set up another small task, and so on. Baby steps are the result of a baby discipline. While there is nothing wrong with being a child, if you really want to achieve your goals, you should aim for something bigger than the living room coach. It’s a perfect goal for a one year old who’s starting to walk, but it’s ridiculous for a grown up who wants to travel the world.
Self-discipline is the ability to do what you have to do, period. Liking it or not is not a question of self-discipline, it’s a question of liking it or not. Doing what you have to do is so simple, yet people tend to mix it every time with this hedonistic approach: oh, well, I might do this, but I don’t like it. Get over it. You’ve set up your own goal, you’ve schedule the tasks, now do it.
The Art Of Setting Great Expectations
Be fearless, get out of your comfort zone, value yourself no matter what and don’t quit.
Yes, as simple as that.