Can Lowering Your Expectations Bring You Joy?

One of my investors recently suggested that it might be in my interest to lower my expectations in the midst of a current challenge. She made the case by saying that “you’re at your best when operating at a point of indifference.”

At first blush, this advice seemed to conflict with my natural approach to work. I feel compelled to provide spectacular experiences for our clients. I take pride in bringing out the best in our team members, and love it when they push me to dig deeper and find the best that I have to offer.

At home, of course I want the best for my children and husband.

And yet… I can see that there might be some logic to her suggestion.

joyful entrepreneur

If you make your happiness – or sense of achievement – conditional on everything going perfectly, you will never be satisfied. Life is complicated. No matter how much you might plan, someone can always be late, or sick, or reluctant to follow the plan.

Wouldn’t it be better to have faith in your vision and your ability to bring it to life, but at the same time detach your emotions from any single outcome?

Yes, and no.

I’m pretty good at doing this at home. My kids don’t seem to mind if I throw together a less than Pinterest-worthy birthday party. My husband accepts that date night attire might consist of yoga pants. If the kids get cranky or it rains all day Saturday, I generally can let it roll off my back.

But the prospect of disappointing a paying client or making a major mistake in the business? That is so much harder to accept.

The truth is, it’s tough to be an entrepreneur. Employees are dependent on you for their income, which means that – to a certain extent – their kids are also dependent on your for their food and clothing and toys. Our clients trust us to capture the essence of what makes them a loving family.  In other words, each outcome very much matters.

And yet, we are in this for the long run. That means maintaining the energy to be upbeat and creative for many years to come.

So, while I’m not willing to lower my expectations with regards to how well we do our jobs, I am willing to accept that we are all human. Stuff will go wrong. When that happens, we’ll fix it, but we don’t have to agonize over every bump in the road.

When you watch a calm and confident person perform, such as a TED speaker or a proven entrepreneur, you’ll see that it’s very hard to rattle them. If something goes wrong, they diffuse the situation with a joke or perhaps an offer of assistance. When necessary, they display strength of character. We find such people appealing not because they are effective only when everything goes right, but because they are effective no matter what.

So while I won’t lower my standards, I am starting to realize that a great business can be built even when everything does not go always go as planned.

Have you ever reduced your stress by detaching from an expected outcome?  How did that work out for you?  Leave a comment by clicking here.

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