Updated: Nov 14, 2020
When I first started working at a big company, I remember that making decisions regarding my next step was always exhausting. At that point I didn't realise why it was so exhausting, but today, after a lot of introspection and time spent with myself, I can tell you why.
Before I go into this why, I want to clear out that I'm not even talking about big decisions here. I'm not necessarily talking about a multi million contract for some client for whatever. I'm talking about, even choosing the right font and colours in a report.
I point this out because I want to make sure that you understand that I don't think that there is such a thing as a small or meaningless decision, if this decision in consuming your entire energy.
Why making decisions is so tough
Having said that, let's go into why making any decision can be so exhausting.
We often make our decisions based on what other people will think of them. Depending on the situation, we will care about the opinion of different people. When we are employed at a company, it is very likely that the opinion we care the most about, is either our boss's, or the opinion of the colleagues with whom we work the most.
A part of us thinks that we sort of know what this person expects from us. This is the part of us that gets us almost into that final decision. However, the other part of us is dancing into the infinite possibilities of what the other person could think. This is the part of our mind that creates an internal battle between a million possible choices and the million consequences that each choice could produce. Could you imagine choosing a font and color for your report, under a mindset like that?! Doesn't it sound like the most exhausting thing in the world for such a simple thing?
What happens when we work using this mindset, is that we create the recurrent feeling that we will disappoint the person who's opinion we care about. We feel that this person will be disappointed because we don't have enough information to make the perfect choice.
You might think that the solution to this situation is to get as much information as you can. Partly, this helps. But truthfully, that won't solve it all.
You really don't know anything
Reality is that we will never 100% know what other people think about us. Our reality is only ours. It is self created. Everything that we ''know'' to be truth is really only a very polluted perception of the real world, which actually nobody gets to see. The faster you understand this, the quicker you will let go of the exhausting need to meet the expectations of another person.
There are some expectations that are very clear. Let's say that you are asked to do a very specific thing, or that we are talking about something that you can easily explore in order to find out what someone else's expectations are. This is not what we are talking about right now.
We're talking about the mental fatigue caused by trying to meet expectations that nobody has expressed. We're talking about the self harm caused by trying to meet imaginary expectations that are changing over the course of a second. We're talking about unrealistic expectations.
Working based on imaginary expectations
We all need to understand that working based on imaginary expectations can easily turn into a complete waste of energy and joy. Imaginary expectations are unrealistic, because they are actually created by us based on unicorn-level perfectionism. We tend to create expectations about ourselves, from other people, that are way higher than the ones they create for us. For example, we usually expect ourselves to perform as good as our boss, while our boss doesn't expect that, because he knows that he or she is way ahead in the game.
Choosing the right expectations
Now hear me out here:
When you choose your next move, do it based either on the expectations that YOU choose to have for yourself, or based on this other person's REAL expectations (meaning things that he or she explicitly said).
If you choose to make your decisions based on your own expectations, be kind to yourself. Be realistic. Consider where you are at, how you have gotten there, and the effort that you are making today. Always put your well-being as a top priority, and ask yourself why you do what you do. Remember that life is short, and that the only thing that you can do, literally, is your best. Do your best, and always be proud of it, regardless of what other people's best looks like. Your best is really not comparable to anyone else's. You have lived your own experiences and won your own battles. Own your shit, your journey, and your best!
Notice and avoid conflicting expectations
If you, for some reason, choose to make your decisions based on someone else's expectations created by YOU (which is very understandable when you work for a team that you want to satisfy, or when you work directly with clients), make sure you link those expectations with your own.
You can not create a healthy inner environment when your own expectations are conflicting with the expectations that you are trying to satisfy. If they are conflicting, always either rise your self expectations so that they meet the other person's imaginary expectations, or go back to fulfilling your own!
I'll give you a clear example of my own.
Sometimes I say to myself ''I HAVE to do this in 1 day, even though no one has asked me to, but I don't think that I am capable of doing it''. What I am doing here is saying ''I don't expect myself to manage to do this in 1 day, but my boss expects me to do so, so I will work to achieve it, even though I know that I can't''.
However, when I make both expectations match, everything makes more sense. For example: ''I HAVE to do this in 1 day. I know I that can do this and I will do it!'' or ''I don't expect myself to do this in 1 day, it is too much work. I am simply not prepared for it, and that is ok''.
Always do your own personal best
Working based on imaginary unrealistic expectations is one of the worst things you can do.
Don't work based on what you think other people expect from you, because you will never hit that mark right in the middle, and you will be working a TON.
I can assure you, that as long as you put your energies into doing your best, it is very unlikely that your boss will be disappointed in you. Just assume that, and work from there.
Make your decisions based on what you know in the moment, and be honest enough with yourself to understand that you will never be able to guess 100% what this other person wants!
Your best sometimes will match their expectations, sometimes it won't, and that's okay!