In one of the courses I studied for mental performance coaches for sports, we discussed the difference in goals vs. expectations and how they affect our performance. It is a principle that applies to all aspects of our lives. Let me explain.
Goals, dreams, and vision boards are important. We have all heard the Lewis Carroll quote "If you don't know where you are going, then any road will do." Goals are important to have, to write down, and to consistently review and should be done once a season for your business, sport, or life. For some people, that might be once a year or once a quarter or before the start of a sports season, and it's important for goals to be tracked. However, when we get into the day to day of executing our goals, it's extremely important not to turn those goals into daily expectations. Expectations limit our success. Instead, we should focus on building confidence and on focusing on manageable objectives related to the process of our craft. Additionally, as I always tell my teams, "focus on progress, not perfection."
Think about how many times in life expectations can be costly. What about expectations a new husband has for his new wife, or vice versa? What about expectations parents have for kids and their achievements in school or athletics or their career choice? What about expectations of performance at work? Coaches tout the phrase 'Expect to Win', but it is actually counterproductive to their team's success. Most fans and cities put high expectations on their sports teams every year which actually detract them from their goal. Expectations create stress and pressure. They cause our body to physically tense up. Expectations are the reason people perform worse in competition than in practice. Expectations cause us to feel behind from where we 'are supposed to be' or they can cause us to let up when we are ahead of where we 'are supposed to be.'
To find flow or be in the zone in anything you are doing, one of the primary factors is to feel relaxed and fluid. Expectations don't allow us to access that state. The better alternative is to replace those expectations with confidence in our ability and the practice that we have already put into our craft. It is also import to focus on the process. By focusing on the process, we focus on the very next manageable objective - the very next best thing we can focus on to help us in our mission. The next meeting, the next phone call, the next prospect, the next play. Living in the moment and forgetting the past. We have to stop being so judgemental of ourselves. We are our own worst critic, and we need to stop pressuring ourselves with expectations (or letting others impress their expectations on us). For example, affirmations for a golfer to limit expectations they put on themselves would include phrases like "Play the shot you have that day", "Don't fight it", "Accept results that are functional." And for confidence, it's important to feel 'up' but not be overly excited. Too much excitement or adrenaline coursing through our veins prevents us from feeling relaxed and obtaining the state of flow.
In a book I'm reading called 'The Untethered Soul' it talks about the voice inside our head that is always chattering. It is the judgemental voice that creates those expectations. The book says "There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind--you are the one who hears it." It goes on to say that you would never be okay with someone else speaking to you the same way that the voice in your head speaks to you. Don't let that voice influence you and have power over your thoughts and actions!
In summary, goals are important to set at certain times in your life, but don't let those goals turn into daily expectations. Expectations limit our success. Instead, stay relaxed and 'up' while focusing on the process and the next manageable objective of your craft.