A few days ago, I was getting to know a new client during an initial session. Usually, the first session or two is getting to understand the primary issues and identifying treatment goals. While he was talking, I easily picked up on the theme of setting high expectations for himself. When I asked him how he would achieve his goals, he shrugged his shoulders followed shortly thereafter by “I don’t know.” He did not even know where to start, but he held himself to such a high standard. This began a long, deep conversation about differentiating between goals and expectations that I thought might be worth sharing.
Setting high expectations for ourselves can be problematic. I use the example of a ledge. If the ledge is too high, you will likely have difficulty reaching it. There is also a strong likelihood that you will fall over and hurt yourself in defeat. If you can bring the ledge closer to your level, it makes it easier to reach.
If expectations are a ledge, goals are a set of stairs. We focus on the destination without taking into consideration the journey. We look straight up into the sky towards our ultimate goal. It sits there in the clouds, feeling so close and far simultaneously. Our necks ache in agony, while our feet remain put. Instead, look for the stairs. Take tiny steps every day to move closer to that ultimate goal. Each steps builds upon the one before it.
Expectations are what you want to happen. Goals are what will happen.
-The Caring Counselor