How often do people rely on seeing results to make them happy?
And how often can someone be happy if they need to see a result or rely on something outside of their control to feel fulfilled?
When people create specific expectations, it can often set them up for failure. Their expectations may be getting in the way of what they really want.
According to the talk “Enjoy the Moment” by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Sometimes we become so focused on the finish line, that we fail to find joy in the journey.”
How often do we focus solely on the outcome we desire that we forget to be grateful and present in the moment? We are so used to doing this because we believe hyper-focusing will allow us to achieve our goals. However, these expectations can actually hinder our long-term goals if they lead to feelings of discouragement or fear.
“With personal goals, we may still want to stretch ourselves to aim high, but not be so attached to the goal that we feel a sense of failure when we miss the mark,” said Robert Chappell, former director of the Washington D.C. LDS Temple Visitors Center. “Having a feeling of curiosity with failure can be much more constructive than condemnation.”
When people create expectations, it can help them stretch themselves to work towards a goal however when they rely on meeting their expectations to be happy, it can make it harder for them to achieve their goals. This is because their subconscious mind tries to protect them from the pain caused by the perceived failure. So how can we change our expectations from hindering to helpful?
“I used to think, ‘Oh, I’ll be happy when I have a boyfriend,’ or, ‘I’ll be happy when I am married,’ or, ‘I’ll be happy when I have kids,’” said Mary McCombie, a senior studying art. “And so I felt a lot of loneliness and sadness that I wasn’t where I thought I should be.”
Since Young Women’s, McCombie had expectations for what her future should be.
“I always thought I would go on my mission and come home and get married pretty quickly,” McCombie said. “I had this expectation in my mind that I would be able to have my career figured out and that I would have a husband before I graduated.”
She had expectations of how things needed to be, making it difficult for her to feel she was successful.
“Because I had those high hopes and expectations for my marriage and dating life, I was really struggling in finding joy because I thought that was what I wanted and needed,” McCombie said. “But it’s not what I need right now, because Heavenly Father hasn’t put that in my life right now. He knows better than me what I need and what’s going to make me happy.”
McCombie said strengthening her faith in the Lord and receiving a father’s blessing helped her to recenter her expectations.
“As my trust increased in Heavenly Father and His love for me, the less I was concerned about meeting the expectations that I had since I was a young woman,” McCombie said.
Hannah Hansen, a junior studying child development, said she was officially diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder in high school, but she still had expectations for herself to be a certain way.
“I had this expectation of who I was supposed to be and anxiety didn’t fit into it,” Hansen said. “And so, for years, I just suppressed the idea that I might have anxiety.”
Hansen said that when she didn’t live up to those expectations, she would experience even more anxiety.
“When I would have panic attacks, it would create more anxiety, because I would be like, ‘Oh, well this is a normal experience,'” Hansen said. “‘Why am I freaking out over getting a bad grade?’ or, ‘Why am I freaking out over someone confronting me about something that they thought that I didn’t do well?’”
Hansen said she expected herself to live in a way she thought was normal, and when she didn’t, she would have panic attacks.
“I remember one time when I was a junior in high school, everyone was talking about how stressed they were about this exam, and I wasn’t stressed about it; and so, all of a sudden, I expected myself to be stressed about it, and so that created a panic attack,” Hansen said.
Hansen said she realized she could find more joy as she changed her expectations for herself. She no longer had to live up to her expectations of what a “normal” life looked like to be OK with where she was at.
“Once I changed my expectation of myself, I was able to live life with anxiety,” Hansen said.
Hansen said the best way to get rid of unhealthy expectations is by studying grace and the Atonement of Jesus Christ so we can come to better understand the character of God.
“It seems like such a silly, simple answer,” Hansen said. “But once you understand who God is, you won’t expect these things of yourself anymore.”
According to the talk “Joy and Spiritual Survival” by President Russell M. Nelson, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives, and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”
While we can’t always control the results, we can control what we focus on and our attempts in the process. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He just expects us to try our best, something that looks different for everyone.
What do you expect of yourself, life and the future? You may not have all the control you want in your life. However, as you cultivate a curiosity for failure, increase faith in Heavenly Father’s plan and deepen your understanding of God’s grace, you can find joy in the journey and hope in great things to come.