The world is full of paradoxes. One of the biggest is the tradeoff between having high and low expectations.
On the one hand, we need to expect to win at life, otherwise; what’s the point of even trying? But on the other hand, we can’t be discouraged when we lose.
The two different concepts are perfectly explained by the following two quotes.
- “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” — Zig Ziglar
- “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”― Alexander Pope
The first quote says we should expect to win, the second one says we shouldn’t expect to win. So which attitude do you pick?
This is a hard concept to wrap your head around. It took me years to find a balance that worked for me.
The Importance Of A Positive Attitude
You need a positive attitude if you want to win. All kinds of successful people from different fields will tell you that.
There’s no point in “trying.” When you do something, you must do it well, and expect to win. I think that’s the attitude many winners share.
But you and I both know that your attitude is only one part of the equation. Without putting in the work, you must realize that you will not win. You can have all the talent in the world, if you don’t put it to work, you will never reach your full potential.
Winning, becoming good at your job, getting recognition — it all requires a lot of work. To reach our full potential, we must prioritize learning over pleasure.
That means we can’t become great and go out every weekend, watch movies every night, play video games, go shopping, and just hang out on the couch.
The Danger Of Low Expectations
But expecting to win can also be harmful if you’re not mentally strong. I’ve always been an optimistic person. That attitude has helped me a lot in life.
However, in my early twenties, I almost got discouraged to reach for my goals. Time and time again, I was disappointed by failure. Especially when I got out of college, I tried to start many different businesses. And everything failed except for the business I started with my dad.
Naturally, I felt like I couldn’t do it on my own. Look back, it was too early for me. But those high expectations almost made me give up. I’m glad I kept going and stayed positive.
The problem is not whether you fail or not. It’s about this: What do you want to do about it?
Cry and moan and say, “Why does this happen!!” We all know that’s not helpful. Instead, we must be indifferent to outcomes.
But still, I do think we must expect to win at everything in life: Your career, relationships, and money. Aim high and do everything in your control to become your best self. That’s the most useful way to spend your time.
Compare Yourself To Who You Were Yesterday
I like this idea from Jordan Peterson, who talks about comparing yourself to who you were yesterday, in his book 12 Rules For Life.
When you focus on yourself, there’s no disappointment about external factors.
You do everything you can, and if you lose, you will do better next time. Nothing can destroy you.
And if you fail? So what? Being sad or disappointed when things don’t turn out the way you expected is completely normal. I still don’t like to fail. But what’s not normal is blaming others or yourself.
Here’s the thing: Don’t take yourself nor life too seriously. We all know that blaming others is what fools do. You only create resentment and hatred by blaming other people for your losses in life.
But sadly, many honest, self-aware, and positive people blame themselves. And that’s also wrong.
Expect The Best From Yourself — Not From “The World”
In short, this is what I’ve learned about high and low expectations:
- Have high expectations from yourself. Put in the work. Aim for becoming your best self.
- Have zero expectations from “the world.” Don’t expect other people to hand you anything.
- Understand that you don’t control externals. Never blame yourself for bad outcomes.
- But do blame yourself for not giving it your all. That’s something you control.
There are always people who say, “But what about this or that?” And I often say that I don’t know. Because it’s naïve to say you have the answers.
We’re all trying to make sense out of our careers, relationships, and most importantly: Our own actions.
It’s a never-ending process. We do. We fail. We learn. But we never give up.