Over the course of my career (whether it is in my role of speech pathologist, neurofeedback practitioner, or coach) I have had to help people manage their expectations around change. We have a lot of thoughts around what change should look like, how it should feel, and what will happen as we attempt to get from our known “Point A” to the unknown “Point B”.
Most of our expectations are colored by our experiences of the past, and to some extent, our biology. Humans desire stability and control. When things change or become something we didn’t expect, it can be a very uncomfortable experience for us. Often, we attempt to control that experience, which leads to further discomfort and suffering.
It isn’t enough to just say “be in the flow” or “release expectations”. Unless you have experience and training around doing this, these types of statements aren’t helpful. In fact, they add a layer of stress around the experience because now there is judgement around how we “should” respond.
Here are some tips for managing expectations as you begin the process of self-development work:
- Accept that you don’t know what it’s going to look like. While your experience might follow a predictable path similar those who’ve gone before you, what happens during the process is unique to you. It is novel because you’ve never done this before. Accept that your body/brain/consciousness may respond differently than how other people have responded. That’s totally fine and normal!
- Be ok with discomfort. Learning something new is always going to feel awkward and uncomfortable at first. But many of us have begun to equate “uncomfortable” to mean “something is wrong”. We may think that there’s something amiss with the process we have undertaken or that the journey “isn’t for us”. We might even go down the road of thinking that somehow WE are in the wrong. The old stories that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, valuable enough, etc. to achieve our goals begin to appear. This is where a therapist, trainer, or coach can help! Someone outside of ourselves can see what we can’t. They can give us guidance on what to adjust so we may move forward. Or, they can give us feedback to help us self-correct. Allow the helpers in your world to assist you and know that this is part of the process.
- Embrace “Journey” consciousness over “Destination” consciousness. Our culture is very focused on achievement. We believe that our accomplishments make up who we are and we reinforce this mythology to each other on a daily basis. But nothing can be further from the truth. We already “are” who we are. The rest of it is just a ride. While there are benefits to achievement, it is helpful to see this part of life as markers on a journey, not the end result of anything. Don’t forget, there are little achievements along the way to attaining the big goal. Many of my clients have to learn how to find those pieces of the process because they are so subtle. Or, clients have it in their mind that anything other than their desired outcome isn’t part of the process. But when we can see the little victories and accept the victories we had no idea were coming to us, the journey is much richer and more fulfilling.
- Be prepared for a different outcome. Many years ago when I was receiving neurofeedback from another provider, he shared some poignant wisdom right before he started our first session. He said, “When this is over, the things you thought you wanted won’t matter anymore. And you will be able to achieve things that you never could have dreamed of.” Truer words were never spoken. The more I have trained, the more clearly I have been able to see myself and the world around me. I have significantly dropped many of the ego-based desires I had and I no longer waste my time or energy on those things. I have greatly increased my ability to love others, be present for them, and to love myself. My goals in life are now totally different than I ever imagined. None of what I have now was even in my awareness before I started the journey. Now, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
Be gentle with yourself as you make changes in your world. Celebrate the milestones and forgive your errors. Know that you will continue to do better and better as the journey continues. Embrace the change you seek as well as the surprises it brings to your life. If nothing else, you will have a story to tell and a lesson learned.