If you had asked me the difference between expectations and goals before I got sober, I am sure I would have given a convoluted explanation about my opinion between the two. But the truth was I had no idea.
Growing up with expectations
I grew up with a lot of expectations placed upon me, but I didn’t see it that way. My parents wanted the best for me, which included doing a lot of things I knew I was “supposed” to do. I was given a fantastic education at a prep school until 8th grade that I took for granted. It was then expected of me to go on to a private college preparatory high school, followed by a prestigious college. Following that I would get an entry-level job in my chosen field. I didn’t really question this, as this was the norm for most of my peers as well. The thing was, not only were these expectations people around had of me, but they were mine as well.
As things go for a lot of us, almost none of those expectations happened. I was not accepted to a college prep high school. When I did transfer to one after attending public school, I dropped out. I did not attend a prestigious college, yet I did receive a bachelor’s degree from a local private tech school. I did go on to get an entry-level job in my field, yet was ultimately fired as a direct result of my selfish attitude and actions revolving around my addiction. I had genuinely expected all of these things to just happen for me and was frustrated and resentful when they didn’t work out. As they say. “An expectation is a resentment under construction.”
Make goals for you, not other people
The thing was, I never turned any of these expectations into real goals for myself. I just knew it was what I should do, and kind of thought it would all work out like a lot of things in my life did because of the fact that I was so privileged. A key mistake that I look back on now is I was never doing any of these things for myself; it was all to either look good or to appease other people in my life.
So what, then, is a goal?
My understanding of a goal now has drastically changed. I have learned to recognize when I have an expectation on something and am looking forward to a desired result and then turn it into a milestone for myself that I attempt to achieve. I have a goal to one day own my own business, to start a family and be a supportive and contributive human being in society. I know that drugs and alcohol stood in my way of this and that selfish motives stood in my way when I was drinking and using. My goals are feasibly attainable now and have measurable results, rather than just some vague expectation in the sky that I may never achieve.
Today I attempt to not put expectations on anything. Short of the sun rising in the morning and setting at night, nothing in this life is guaranteed. I try to put in the work necessary to achieve my goals, but I do not waste my time and energy attempting to control the outcome. I my research, put in the work and let whatever happens, happen. I had never realized just how much my expectations were hindering me from living a happy and serene life until I took a look at how much of my time was spent thinking about the end result instead of the work.
Setting goals for yourself is a way to fuel your ambition. Goal setting isn’t just about creating a plan for your life and holding yourself accountable, it’s also about giving us the inspiration necessary to aim for things we never thought possible.