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How to Thoughtfully Manage Self-Imposed Expectations

We all have self-imposed expectations we place on ourselves.

It’s a natural part of being human—especially if we want to get things done. And I’m definitely one of those people who likes to get things done.

Self-imposed expectations aren’t always bad.

As a working mother, I often need self-imposed expectations to help me get from one place to another without completely dropping the ball.

They give me the ability to make sure I am there for my family, my friends, and my speaking business.

But since it’s summer, I am trying to give myself a bit of a break. Although there is really no break in my business or as a wife and mother, I’m still trying to lessen the pressure I generally place on myself.

But over the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot going on in my life. I feel those self-imposed expectations are creeping back in and causing problems.

I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself to complete things.

While on vacation, I have been overly focused on the busyness side of life instead of taking time to enjoy the places and the people around me.

Vacation is a time that was meant for us to step away from the craziness of life and to slow down and relax.

However, I’ve been taking phone calls and doing other things that I know I shouldn’t be doing on vacation.

To be honest, it never ends well when I get into this kind of cycle.

But for some reason, I can’t seem to let go of my own self-imposed expectations.

I feel like we all do this to ourselves.

Self-imposed expectations shouldn’t cause unnecessary stress.

We have these arbitrary deadlines that we set for ourselves that really have no meaning except for the meaning we give to them.

We give these deadlines power and then drive ourselves crazy when we aren’t meeting our own expectations.

This kind of behavior adds so much to our stress when we should really be letting that stress go.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s good to have deadlines.

But instead of making random deadlines, we need to remind ourselves to take a step back and see what we have going on in our lives.

Evaluating what’s already on our plate before we create a deadline is critical so that we’re not overburdening ourselves.

Arbitrary deadlines cause us to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves, making us believe we have to complete so many things all at once.

This just sets us up for failure because of impossible self-imposed expectations.

We need to stop setting ourselves up for failure.

I have so many things that I want to complete and projects that I want to get done. And I would love to get everything done all at once—while still taking care of my family.

But that’s really unrealistic expectations.

If we want to feel successful in our efforts, we need to adopt a more realistic and balanced approach to our goals and self-expectations.

We can do this by being realistic about the time and effort that is required to achieve our goals.

We also need to realize that our progress may be slower than expected, and that’s perfectly okay.

Above all, we need to give ourselves time to rest.

We all need time to rest and rejuvenate.

When I get in bed at night after a long day of running, all too often, insomnia hits. Because of this, I never really feel like I have ample time to rejuvenate.

It’s not like I don’t have time to relax. Yes, I do relax, but when I’m not meeting my self-imposed expectations, it really adds to my stress.

So I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about all the things I still need to do.

It’s a vicious cycle.

So how do we stop putting ourselves in a position where we are stressing ourselves out more than we need to?

And how do we find rest when there are so many things we need to do?

I have three suggestions.

Create a Realistic Schedule.

First, we have to understand that there are only so many hours in a day for us to get things done.

All too often, we put way too much pressure on ourselves and line up way too many things in our day in the hopes we’ll get it all done.

For me, it’s hard to bring in a more realistic perspective when I’m looking at my schedule to determine what it is I need to cut out.

The worst thing for me is when I schedule something and then try to fit something else in before it—and then I’m late for everything.

I just want to do it all and check it off my to-do list.

But we’re not super-humans, and we all just have the same 24 hours each day to do what we can.

So when we schedule things, we need to schedule them in such a way that we know we’ll have plenty of time to get there.

Creating a realistic schedule helps us to prioritize our time and consider exactly how much time is needed for each task.

And having an achievable timeline reduces the stress of trying to cram too much into a limited timeframe.

When we create a realistic schedule, we become more efficient and productive.

This means we can complete tasks within reasonable time frames, leaving us with less urgency and pressure to meet deadlines.

Recognize you’re not going to finish everything.

When I wake up in the middle of the night, I have to remind myself that it’s okay if I haven’t finished everything on my list—that’s what tomorrow is for.

We may only have 24 hours in a day, but we have seven days in a week and 365 days in a year. That’s a lot of time to get things done.

We just have to learn to prioritize our goals.

Prioritization helps us identify and focus on tasks that have the most significant impact on our goals and better helps us to manage our expectations.

Practicing self-compassion is also key. Ideally, we should treat ourselves with the same understanding and compassion we would offer a friend or loved one.

We need to be kind to ourselves when we encounter setbacks or don’t finish everything on our to-do list.

By embracing the concept of “good enough” and acknowledging that we can’t do it all, we are giving ourselves permission to be okay with things as they really are.

It’s perfectly okay to focus on those things that need to get done right away and then put the rest on the back burner until we are able to pick them up again.

And there’s nothing wrong with giving ourselves more time to get things done.

We need to be open to adjusting our goals and timelines as circumstances change.

Life is unpredictable, and adaptability is vital to avoid unnecessary stress.

Give yourself time to rejuvenate.

In the craziness of our hectic lives, we need to create space for rest, relaxation, and self-care.

Taking breaks and recharging are a necessary part of reducing stress and maintaining overall well-being.

It’s important to remember that self-care and rejuvenation are not indulgences but crucial components of effective self-management.

By including regular periods of rest and rejuvenation into our routine, we can create a foundation for better managing self-imposed expectations.

Taking time to rejuvenate also helps reduce stress levels. When you are less stressed, you are better equipped to approach your expectations with a clearer and calmer mindset.

Burnout can occur when expectations become overwhelming and relentless, and rest helps to counterbalance this effect.

Be mindful of setting realistic boundaries for your time and energy, especially when on vacation.

Avoid taking on too many commitments and learn to say no when necessary.

Allowing yourself time to rejuvenate reinforces the idea of setting healthy boundaries.

It demonstrates that you value your well-being and are not solely driven by external pressures or self-imposed expectations.

You can successfully manage your self-imposed expectations.

Overall, managing self-imposed expectations is a long-term endeavor.

They can either help or hinder our growth.

Creating a realistic schedule, recognizing we’re not going to finish everything, and giving ourselves time to rejuvenate will ensure that we can sustain our efforts without experiencing burnout or losing motivation.

This is something I need to remind myself of on a regular basis.

But I’ve discovered that by implementing these strategies, I can cultivate a healthier relationship with self-imposed expectations while still enjoying my vacation.

I hope it can do the same for you.

Meet Simone Knego

Simone Knego is an international speaker, award-winning author and two-time TEDx Speaker. Her work has been featured on ABC, NBC, and CBS and in Entrepreneur Magazine and Yahoo News. Her literary contributions have been honored by the National Indie Excellence Award and the NYC Big Book Award. Simone has not only summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, but she is also the heart of a bustling household with six children, three dogs, and one husband of 31 years. As the creator of the REAL Method, Simone continues to inspire and impact teams, fostering growth, and promoting self-discovery. 

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