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Four ways to deal with high expectations of yourself

Bam! With a thud, I fall face forward into the snow. I rub the sticky snowflakes from my hair as I look down. I can see the others of the group already skiing at the foot of the slope like dots in the distance. I look around and dig my skis out of the snow. My gloves get wet and cold. Uncomfortably, I get up and try to put my skis. I put one foot in, click. My other, click. It works! I ski one turn, two turns, and bam! I am on my face again.

I expected to be able to ski that slope. To be as good as the rest. Or maybe even a little bit better. And not only with skiing, but also with running, writing articles, living sustainably, being a good friend, learning new coaching methods…

The best way to happiness is to let go of your expectations. So they say. But how do you do that? Here are four ways I try to deal with my high expectations of myself.

1. Recognize the high expectations

The first and most important step to letting go of your expectations is to recognize them. What high bar do you set for yourself? How are you comparing yourself to others? What does the voice in your head say to you? Recognition can sometimes lead to expectations losing some of their power over you. Bonus points for you if you can laugh a little, lovingly, at yourself and your high expectations.

2. Allow yourself to learn in small steps

My little niece learns to stand up by day after day pulling herself up and falling back to the floor. You learn French by learning a few words every day. And you expect to be successful immediately? So, if you're aiming to achieve things, whatever it is, give yourself the space to learn in small steps.

3. Use your high expectations

Your high expectation is also a beautiful thing. You want to do well, maybe you have an ambition or you have something important to strive for. What can you do to turn that expectation into something positive? Use it to challenge yourself in a realistic way.

4. Work on accepting negative thoughts and feelings

While lying in the snow all kinds of negative things were going on in my mind. ‘I’m no good, the others will be annoyed to have to wait for me.’ Fighting these thoughts and feelings just makes it worse. It is better to learn to accept them. That's very difficult, because it means allowing them to be there. But paradoxically, that makes them less impactful.

Five minutes later I reach the end of the slope with a smile. “I'm here!” I call out laughing to the group waiting for me. Maybe I shouldn't go on the black slope for a while yet, but that doesn't mean I can't ski. I'll try again tomorrow.


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