Creating Reasonable Expectations

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Creating Reasonable Expectations

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Recently I went into one of my favorite restaurants for lunch. I was really hungry from not eating well during the past few days. I noticed several appetizers and entrees that I absolutely love. I ordered them, all of them.  About 40 minutes later I couldn’t eat another bite, but there was still so much food remaining. Cleary, I ordered more than I could eat.


Perhaps, my expectations for what I could eat during such a narrow window of time were unrealistic. I had the motivation, but it just wasn’t possible.

People sometimes do the same thing with self-improvement goals, continuing education or professional development goals, and especially with health and fitness goals. They feel so hungry (metaphorically) or they want change so badly that try to take on too much with a goal that lacks sufficient time to complete the process. It seems that it is much more common to set your expectations too high within a very small window as compared with setting them too low and having room to spare.

Expectations or Goals

When it comes to terminology, expectations and goals (or objectives) might be used synonymously. In practice however you might discover that your expectations and goals are not the same thing.

Many people who set out to make a personal or professional change understand (expect) that they can realistically achieve the change; their frustration, shortcomings, or failure is that they don’t set realistic goals. This can be dangerous because it can not only demotivate you, it might also damage your future confidence. Lacking confidence you might decide that you have no expectations and with no expectations you’ll likely not have any goals.

Reasonable Expectations

Creating reasonable expectations happens when you think more strategically and less tactically.

Back to my restaurant scenario, tactically, I know I can eat the food I enjoy. Strategically, I have to consider how much food I can eat during a specific window of time.

So with a little (or a lot of) motivation we can easily create unreasonable expectations, then our actual performance comes in too low. In order to set more reasonable expectations we have to be sure that we have more than just a vision of what we want to accomplish. We’ll need performance goals, milestones, and methods of measurement. We will have to actualize our vision through strategy.

At a minimum you should consider these factors:

  • past performance
  • capacities
  • resources
  • obstacles
  • measurements

There are likely additional factors that could be associated with your quest to develop reasonable expectations but this list certainly is a good start. Did you ever think there was so much to consider about how you develop or set your expectations? Are you being reasonable as you think about your goals for self-improvement, continuing or professional education, or fitness?

Here is what I think. I think I am likely to overestimate how much I can eat during one meal, but I would significantly underestimate how much food I consume across two or three years.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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November 8, 2016at 7:56 am

Isn’t being reasonable also conditioning oneself to limited thinking; limited possibilities?

    Dennis Gilbert

    November 8, 2016at 8:38 am

    I suppose it could be viewed that way. Of course, that is not my intent, my intent is for reaching/stretch expectations but not unrealistic. Great question!!! (as always) For the other side of the story read this:


      November 8, 2016at 9:01 am

      Yes. I agree with your intent.

      The link proved interesting and valuable also. Great essay!

      But I still wonder about “unrealistic.”

      For me, All things Are Possible. I really believe that to be true.


        Dennis Gilbert

        November 8, 2016at 9:14 am

        I think that most people are capable of much more than what they realize. I think we always have to move beyond our comfort zone. 🙂

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