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Great Expectations

Do you realize by the end of this month, 2023 will be half over? That’s right. Six months in, six left to go. I know, the pace of life feels dizzying! That's why I think right now is the perfect time to check in on yourself, your goals, and your aspirations for the year.

We’re halfway through the year. Are you halfway to reaching your goals for 2023?

Each January, many of us set intentions for the new year. Some call these new year’s resolutions, others simply refer to them as goals. In the end, they’re the same: statements of what you want to accomplish in the next 12 months.

Formalizing these aims is a healthy approach to adding purposeful structure to our lives, to holding ourselves accountable for what we want to accomplish. Of course, setting a goal doesn’t guarantee completion. What happens then?

Unfortunately, far too many of us run low on empathy and high on judgment for ourselves when we don’t meet our own expectations.

Toxic expectations

Sometimes, when we try to reach a goal, we just can’t get there. Maybe you intended to learn a new language, brush up on your golf skills, paint a room, or travel to a place you’ve never been before. Life got in the way, and you felt you needed to delay in favor of focusing on the here and now.

I get it. The needs of today often have to take priority over the dreams of tomorrow. What’s important is how you respond.

Far too many of us let these missed goals feel like failures. We weaponize our hopes and dreams against ourselves and add a narrative of negativity that plays over and over in our heads.

We grapple with wondering, “why didn’t you just,” or “why can’t you,” and, “you would be happier if.”

All lies.

Healthy expectations

The truth is, your aspirations will always be there, waiting for you when you’re ready. Yes, some of them are time-sensitive or a necessary building block to reach other goals, but in the grand scheme of life, a delay shouldn’t send us down a path of negativity.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying your new year’s resolutions and goals aren’t important. They absolutely are. But give yourself permission to let the intentions go, in every aspect of life.

We expect so much from ourselves. Not meeting our own expectations shouldn’t be a free pass to self-loathing and judgment.

Learning to recognize when the right time wasn’t right, even when your goal was something you really wanted to accomplish, is a critical skill that takes most of us a lifetime to master. At the same time, the concept is really quite simple: just let go.

Personal expectations

I recently caught myself thinking about the goals I set for myself this year but haven’t started. I’ll be honest, this exercise didn’t make me feel great, but reflecting on where I’m at right now held some important lessons.

Even as I write this, I had planned to use this week to enjoy a trip abroad. And yet, here I sit at home with no plans to have my passport stamped for the foreseeable future.

Rather than wallowing in what could feel like a failure, I decided to shift my perspective. Yes, I wanted to go overseas on vacation this month, but it just couldn’t happen. I have to accept the reality of my situation, and remember that Europe isn’t going anywhere.

Even more than that, I want to focus on the goals I did reach this year. Experiencing a great semester at Wharton with a new set of undergraduates, teaching hundreds of entrepreneurs and small business owners in cities across the country in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, speaking (finally in person) at numerous events across the country, dedicating more time to reading, and improving my health. All these are the aspirations I had for 2023 that I have accomplished.

Realistic expectations

Focusing on what has happened instead of what hasn’t is the key to finding joy amid disappointment. For me, not meeting all my expectations for 2023 is a new opportunity—a chance to learn about myself while working on being more compassionate and less judgmental.

I’ve started digging deeper within to understand the “whys” we all ask: why did you not, why have you not, when will you. Some of these answers are painful, others are revealing and insightful. As harsh as the “whys” may be, identifying and understanding them is a necessary step toward getting on track with your goals.

2023 isn’t over yet. There are still a little more than six months left to honor your resolutions, reach your goals, and meet your expectations. Maybe you’ll be successful, maybe you won’t. Either way, take the time to enjoy the journey.


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