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When Expectation Does Not Meet Reality

By Sarah Baker 

So you made some plans for your life and life really isn’t sticking to those plans. You feel like nothing is going like it should and things are just falling apart around you. What are you to do? Sit around and be mindful that life is just passing you by? Or get up and do something about it?

How to cope when expectation doesn't meet reality:

Sure, it’s great to make a plan for life. What you want to accomplish, where you want to live, what you want to do, etc. In fact, when I was in 6th grade, we were told to write a letter to our future-selves. We were to tell it about our current self, but also what our 6th grade self thought our future-selves 10 years older would be doing, living, etc. The flaw in this is as a 6th grade girl, we tend to be more focused on guys. My 6th grade self told my future self that she was going to be married to the guy she had a crush on at the time and be a teacher. By the time I had reached my future self age, I was clearly more mindful, and had outgrown that crush and changed my mind about what I wanted to do with life, so my letter was more comical than helpful.

The point is, just because you make a plan doesn’t mean life’s plan is the same for you. Things change, you change, and there is nothing wrong with that. But how do you deal when our expectation does not match our reality? This is something that plagues a lot of young women (and men) these days. I’ve dealt with this in the past and still do sometimes, but it really got me thinking when a close friend of mine had a break down over this exact thing. I wanted to be able to give her the help to get through it that wasn’t there for me, a support system if you will.

1. Stop focusing on what you do not have: 

First, you need to stop focusing on what you don’t have and everything that is not going as planned, and focus on those things that you do have. By focusing on the fact that you may not have the job that you want or own your own house, you are bringing yourself down. Instead, focus on that fact that you have a job and that you can afford to rent a place and not live with your parents. A few years ago, I used to come home from work miserable and hating everything. I changed jobs and my mood changed dramatically. It doesn’t have to be a job you keep forever, just a job that will make you happier.

2. If you are not happy with your life, change it:

Second, if you’re not happy about how things are going, change it. Sitting around and complaining about how your plan isn’t panning out isn’t helping you, it’s making things worse. So you're single or in an unhappy relationship. Do something about it. Go out and meet someone or get online. Online dating is a totally acceptable way of meeting someone if you don’t really like the bar scene. I’ve done it. I’m not a bar scene kind of girl and online dating made me feel good about myself. Break it off with the guy or girl that is making you miserable. There is no point in being in a relationship that hurts you. I know it’s hard, I’ve been there, but you have to do what’s right for you, no matter how much it might hurt in the beginning.

3. Make a list of your goals:

Third, make a list of all of your expectations. You can do two things with this list. The first is to look at everything and make a plan. What on this list is a must? Start small. Did you think you’d be out of debt by now and you aren’t? Did you think you’d be living on your own and still crash with your parents? Make a plan. What do you need to do in order to accomplish these things? Even checking one thing off of your list can make you feel a million times better. Just because you haven’t done it yet doesn’t mean that you don’t still have time. If you really want it, you can do it. The second thing that you can do with the list is just rip it up. I’m not kidding. It will seriously make you feel a lot better. By making the list and then ripping it up, it tells your mind that it’s ok that things aren’t going as planned and that you can indeed roll with it.

4. Focus on the positive:

Fourth, negative thoughts=negative life. It’s important to focus on the positives in your life, no matter what. The more you dwell on what isn’t happening, the less motivation and energy you will have to make something happen. This also allows you to overlook all the positive and good things that are actually happening in your life. Through all the bad, there is always something good. Find that and focus on it.

5. Take time for yourself to relax:

Fifth, take time for yourself to relax. Although really having nothing to do with your expectations, it will help make your reality easier if your mindful on taking time for yourself and just "being" for a little bit every day. Take 15-60 minutes a day to do something that makes you happy. Do you enjoy a glass of wine by yourself or perhaps a good book? Take time to do those things and it will make you a more relaxed and calm person. This will in turn help you to forget about your expectations, even for a little bit and might actually help you to just go with it more often.

6. Remember everything happens for a reason:

Lastly, it’s important to remember that everything happens for a reason. I know that it’s hard to see this when everything is happening (or not happening) but it’s true. When you look back on things, you can see more clearly and realize that things happen to make you wiser and stronger. Maybe you weren’t ready to be a manager a few years ago but you stayed with it and learned some things that will make you perfect for the job now.

You might not be where you expected to be, but where are you exactly? Is it all that bad? Don’t waste your time on things you can’t control. You never know when something you didn’t plan was planned for you all along. It can be hard to feel like you are failing because reality is way different than what you planned, but it’s important to embrace life and everything it is, no matter how it's turning out. Remember to be mindful that life will just happen, but we have the potential to live life to the fullest. Life is truly what we make it, so get out there and make it great!

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