High standards, low expectations

This phrase has been a huge change of mindset for me. Really transformative. And I’m much happier. Here’s what I mean.

The phrase is from James Clear, of Atomic Habits fame:

Life is harder when you expect a lot of the world and little of yourself.

Life is easier when you expect a lot of yourself and little of the world.

High standards, low expectations.

It seems to me that you can play life two ways.

You can expect everyone to do things your way.

Which is tough, because not everyone even knows what “your way” is.

This applies as much at the stacking of the dishwasher as it does at the Zoom call.

Applying your own standards to others is hard (the “Life is harder” bit?).

Because you need to educate people. Because your way might be worse than someone else’s, so they need to educate YOU. Because you will be critical of others (silently, or vocally – both are bad!).

I am guilty of these things. And there is balance to be found.

Life CAN be easier when people you collaborate with have the same expectations.

Wisdom is therefore knowing when to expect a lot of yourself, and when to expect a lot of the world.

For me, I had lost that balance and swung to expecting too much of others in the hope that they might work in my ways.

I’ve known this for a long time and have been figuring out:

  • Do I keep putting my expectations on them?
  • Do I accept the status quo?
  • Or do I just get on with things myself?

“Life is harder when you expect a lot of the world” because:

  • There is conflict, because the world doesn’t know what your expectations are.
  • You will be disappointed if you expect others to work the way you want them to, because they are not you – they have different values and goals.
  • And your goals aren’t met because you’re not doing the work in the hope that others will.

I will soon write about “confidence”. These topics are related.

I am becoming confident in how I do things. And so I will do them. And if others want to join in then they can.

YES, there are places where processes and standards are necessary for effective collaboration. But where that’s not the case, I’m doing things my way, and accepting that others will do things their way.

It’s been quite a mindset shift for me.

And I’m much happier as a result.