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Aspirations vs. Expectations

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When we’re left feeling like our world is unresolved, the effects on our emotional psyche can be destabilizing. Anxiety, stress, and despondency can quickly become all-consuming when we no longer see the outcomes that we had once imagined. In that way, this type of ambiguity can solicit fear of the unknown and leave us grasping for black and white answers in a world of grey.

One of the greatest causes of unhappiness and stress in uncertain times comes from comparing how we think things should be with how they are. What’s key to remember in moments of uncertainty is that “expectations” always have a way of falling short when they’re confused with “aspirations”.

To dig a little deeper into what this means, we have to look at the difference between the two. One of these is about a general direction while the other is about a specific outcome. An aspiration is simply what we want to occur in the long list of possibilities. Expectations are our beliefs about what’s likely to happen. In that, they are the parameters we set to guide our understanding of probability within the entire range of possibilities.

The thing is when an aspiration isn’t met—but expectations are—it’s disappointing, though tolerable because it still makes sense. However, when expectations aren’t met, it’s because an outcome has occurred outside of the limits we were working within. When this happens, we work tirelessly backward through the ambiguity to determine why our judgments were so far off. This can feel like an emotional roller coaster as we compare our expectations to reality—reassessing up and down where we went wrong. It’s a natural mental process and our mind’s attempt to redefine logic within the structure of understanding, but it can be emotionally caustic.

In this animated short video, Coping With Uncertainty from Mind Tools, expert advice explores this concept and others, to provide six approaches to mitigating the toxic effects of uncertainty.

This week, we encourage you to set time aside to uncover any aspirations that have made their way into your expectations. Redefining the difference between these two can help you strengthen your mental position and embolden resilience when navigating situations that are wrought with uncertainty.

“Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating.”

– Karl Von Clausewitz

Do you have an idea you want to share with an empowered community of self-aware professionals? If you’d like to contribute an idea or article to ‘In The Flow of Work’ on the Evolve blog, just send us a message or submit a post to our Head of Content, Adam Schneider

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