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Are You Meeting Your Own Expectations? A Moment With Bill Reflection
I am pushing a huge boulder uphill; for what purpose I do not know. All I know in this dream is that my muscles are straining…aching….and my breath is exploding from my chest with each step I take.
Just as I reach the top of the hill and I am about to rest, to relax, to engage in a back-slapping dance of self-congratulations, the hill rises up before me again, and what I thought was the summit was nothing more than the crest before another hill.
And the struggle up another hill begins.
Welcome to my life.
I may have some issues. LOL
One of the perks with reaching the latter stages of middle age is a clarity when one looks back over the landscape of their life. I can take an issue like over-inflated expectations and see clearly that it has been with me for a lifetime. I never achieve as much as I believe I should have achieved. I never do as well as I should do. I never set enough goals and I certainly never reach the ones I set because you see, they simply are not attainable.
I have a very hard time with praise. No matter how sweet and genuine it is, a voice in my head says the one praising me does not know the truth, that instead of doing well I actually failed, and if they did know the truth I would never hear praise from them again.
But Bill, you are a good writer!
Yes, maybe, but I’m not as good as I could be.
But Bill, you are a good, hard worker!
Yes, maybe, but I don’t work hard enough to succeed.
But Bill, what is success?
Ah, now we have arrived at the central question, and I suspect it is a question all should be asking.
What Are Expectations?
Well, that is certainly one way to look at the issue, and one I have embraced for a very long time. However, one might consider the following words:
“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
One guy says you shouldn’t lower your expectations, and another says that in the grand scheme of things, expectations pale compared to what is truly important.
The boulder is perched on yet another small summit. Endless such summits are within view. What to do?
You Can Accomplish Anything You Set Your Mind On
Well, no I can’t! I cannot become a fighter pilot in the Air Force. I cannot become a heart surgeon nor can I become CEO of Microsoft. In fact, give me half an hour and I’ll give you a rather lengthy list of things I have no prayer of accomplishing. There comes a time, for all of us, when our expectations are so outrageous as to fit nicely under the category of fantasy, and I think therein lies the central truth worth mentioning, understanding and embracing.
Expectations must be realistic. If my expectation is to write as well as Hemingway then I’m in for a few more decades of disappointment and self-chastisement based on that disappointment. If, however, my expectation is to become a writer who is constantly improving, then I have a very real chance of achieving that goal. Notice I did not say I wanted to be the best writer that Bill Holland can be, because that is a trap of quicksand from which there is no escape. The only one who can determine how good Bill Holland can be is Bill Holland, and a physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.
So I struggle from time to time, keeping my logical mind firmly locked on reality while my subconscious mind, the one bombarded with messages over the past sixty-four years, insists on seeking that which cannot possibly be attained.
It is exhausting being me, and I suspect quite a few of you can say the same thing about yourselves.
One Dilemma We All Face
What is a realistic expectation?
There are some, and I know quite a few of them, who set expectations so low that they in effect doom themselves to a life of mediocrity.
There are others, like myself, who set expectations so high that we doom ourselves to a life of guaranteed failure.
And there are others who attempt the impossible, namely to live up to the expectations of others. Blessed be the foolish for they will inherit the Kingdom of Frustration, for a life based on the expectations of others has no chance at happiness, and what a dismal outlook that is.
Can any of you relate? Have any of you based your happiness on the judgments of others? On the opinions of others? On the wishes of others, and the ridiculously myopic hopes of others? You can’t win that battle, so collect your severance pay and step out of the competition.
The first step is the most important one
So What Should We All Do, Bill?
Oh sure, turn to Mr. Overachiever for the answer! Well, luckily for you my own self-reflections have given me the answer, and I’m going to share it with you.
Listen closely…..are you ready?
Listen, I am a spiritual being having a human experience, and as such I will have days when my wings are clipped and the highest I can fly is a couple inches off the ground, barely clearing the slugs and centipedes. There are other days when I will soar with the angels and understand, for brief moments, what it must be like to find complete freedom from earthly constraints.
That’s just the way it is, and my job is to find acceptance in that fact and love myself no matter whether I am dragging butt or looking down on treetops.
There will be some days when I will write a sentence, or a paragraph, or God forbid an entire page, and Hemingway will feel threatened from his grave. There will be some days when a first grader at the local elementary school, writing in block letters, will be my equal if not my superior.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Thank you Tennyson!
And Halleluiah I say to all of you, for no matter what kind of day I have, I still love myself….and that, dear readers, is the secret to living with expectations, no matter their source.
I must love myself enough to set realistic expectations and then do everything I can to meet them.
I must love myself enough to understand that the expectations of others regarding me should have no more importance than the daily stock report
And I must love myself enough to find acceptance in the undeniable fact that I am only human.
And When the Shadows Fall
When I am drawing my last breath, and the shadows that began at birth finally reach the end of their journey, I want it said that here lies a man who left nothing on the field, who gave every ounce of effort to be the best he could be, and who found peace in the realization that life was meant to be lived….not merely existed…but lived to the fullest.
I wish, for all of you, the same final realization.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to figure out what to do with my boulder.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”