“You can do great things!” ”Aim for the stars!” ”You can be whatever you want to be!”
I have recently had to face my expectations. They have been unreasonable and they have been destructive.
It started with a “pressure to perform,” a growing urge to accomplish something “outstanding.” This gave way to feeling that “ordinary” accomplishments were not enough; I needed a transcendent moment, where I knew I had accomplished something “truly great.” The problem is that we tend to always fail when “really, really great” is the only passing grade. When we put unreasonable expectations on ourselves, it robs us of peace and makes it more difficult for us to be creative.
This week I went to the gym for my free personal training session. My biggest surprise was realizing that I try too hard during exercise. For some reason, whenever I exercise I feel like I am going to die. I hate it. The trainer asked me to start on a treadmill, and we began with a light jog. It was not too hard – I actually sort of liked it. However, we then moved into a heavier run, which felt more like I was used to feeling when exercise. They checked my heart rate, then brought the intensity down by around 30%. That was the hardest they said I should push myself. It was strange to hear, but it helped me realize an important principle:
We are not designed to operate at maximum capacity all of the time.
I believe I should relax some of my expectations, not because they are “bad,” in principle, but that they are unreasonable in practice. It is okay not to hit a home run every time I swing. It is okay not to be superhuman. I do not need to impress anyone, or prove anything to anyone. I can just be me and make a concentrated effort each day to make quality progress on my goals. Great things will occur when we maintain reasonable expectations instead of pushing too hard. If the gym is of any relevance, a 6 to an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 is a good amount of effort. Anything more, and you may just be burning yourself out.