When it comes to expectations, you’ve probably heard lines like these:

“I need to get this grade to get an A!”

Oh my God, if I don’t get this grade, I’ll fail!”

My presentation has to be finished by this time so I can have a fifteen-minute break…!”

“I need to graduate by this year in order to make a million by 30 years old!”

And et cetera, et cetera, and et cetera.

While goal-setting and having a set of expectations is good, you have to make sure they’re realistic. Especially for this new year of 2020 when everyone still has the New Year’s High, people make resolutions but sometimes fail to achieve it because of how daunting it gets. They also lose motivation when they fail to achieve a certain step. And because of this, students are more prone to acquiring learned helplessness which is defined as:

Learned helplessness occurs when people or animals feel helpless to avoid negative situations. This then leads to demotivation and depressive dispositions which prevents an individual from desiring to achieve.

Seligman, 1967

And when hit by “learned helplessness”, it’s a difficult rut to come out from. Especially for those who have the predisposition to be more anxious or depressive than most, they are more prone to acquiring this feeling because of their over-thinking tendencies or their prioritization over a negative outcome because they feel that it will happen.

So how do you manage your expectations? What is the best way to manage your expectations? Here are some:

Think about the feasibility of your expectations

Feasibility is defined as how realistically possible and easy it is to achieve something within a certain span of time. You may have heard this word once or twice especially when you had your research subject in High School. But this word doesn’t just apply to your research subject. It also applies to daily life.

When setting your expectations, take note of how much time you have. Ask yourself if it is possible within the time frame. As students, you are bound within a certain time frame that you cannot change. But you can manage the time you’re given and the best way to start is to look at certain things that are feasible to accomplish with the short time you’re given.

Do things at your own pace

Remember, finishing school work is not as easy as making a cup of Instant Noodles. There will be tears. There will be coffee-induced writing. And there will be sleep-deprived nights. But your school life doesn’t have to always be that way (because it shouldn’t and that you’re going to pay for it big time when you get older). As much as the older generation valued the idea of sacrificing your health for the sake of work, it doesn’t apply here anymore. It’s 2020; you’re not getting any younger.

So when setting out to achieve those expectations, do so slowly or at least at your own pace. Why? Because you’re the one who set that expectation. Nobody else did. Because of that, you also have the freedom to control the pace of how slowly or how quickly you need to achieve it.

Tell yourself that “You will fail.”

Now, this sounds counter-intuitive. Why in the world are you telling me that I will fail? That sounds silly!

Yes, it’s true. But saying this also prevents you from setting your expectations too high. So high that it already becomes impossible and unfeasible (see tip number 1). By knowing that you will fail whether it’s one step or another, this gives you time to critically examine your expectations and ask if it’s even fair of you to ask that much of yourself.

Also, doing this makes you more resilient towards the concept of failure. It makes you less affected by the thought of you failing. It teaches you also to choose your battles carefully which brings us to the next tip:

Choose your battles carefully

Choosing your battles carefully also helps manage your expectations when it comes to achieving certain things. Completing a 3-page Philosophy Paper may be hard battle to win at the moment but finishing your presentation for Biology class may be an easy battle for you. Choosing the easier battle helps you manage your expectations and your energy as you find yourself expending less. By expending less energy, you have more time and momentum to devote to finishing the harder battle.

Do it for no one but yourself

This may sound contrary to the collectivist culture that most Asians live in but hinging your expectations on a person may often lead to disappointment and failure. While you’re too busy what the other person would think, you’re forgetting that you yourself have a different set of expectations. That person’s perception may be vastly different from yours that it needs a specific set of conditions and skill-sets to make that expectation probable. And unless you are that person then, the expectations they have maybe either too much or too impossible for you.

Students often suffer from this problem, especially from their parents. Most especially if they are scholars or if the parents really come down hard on them for the slightest mistake. But as a student, you also have to remember that these expectations that your parents may make for you are based on another time when the competition was most likely stricter and the conditions were extremely different.

So with the new school year coming up, always remember to know your strengths and weaknesses. Play your cards right. And remember, that by taking to account of failure in your expectation can help you manage things better than most people believe.

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