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What to do when expectations don’t meet reality

After a stressful year, many of us went into the summer feeling hopeful that it would be a time of rest and renewal. Maybe you made plans to spend as much time as possible outside. Perhaps you committed to saying no to more things, so you could spend more time truly relaxed and doing the things that matter most to you. Maybe you planned an amazing family trip where you could really soak in some intentional time with your loved ones.

But as summer winds down, maybe you’re looking around and thinking, that was NOT what I expected.

  • The kids fought 90% of the road trip.

  • You ended up saying yes to too many things, and you’re disappointed that you didn’t get enough of the important stuff done.

  • You didn’t spend nearly as much time as you planned; other things kept getting in the way.

It can feel really frustrating when our expectations don’t measure up to reality. We can be disappointed and, worse, feel guilty and beat ourselves up over it.

As you can probably guess, this isn’t a very healthy way to handle expectations not meeting reality. Throughout our lives, there are going to be many times when our lived experience is vastly different from what we hoped and expected it would be. It’s disappointing, but it’s also an inevitable part of life as a human being.

Here are 5 things you can do when you’re disappointed with life not meeting your expectations:

  1. Focus on gratitude. It’s hard to get too mired in disappointment when you’re focused on what is GOOD in your life. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to keep your attention on what you have to be grateful for.

  2. Decide what matters. Sometimes when something doesn’t meet our expectations, it’s no big deal and we can move on quickly. Sometimes it really hurts. Figuring out your priorities can really help you focus your attention on making sure the important things happen. You can’t make EVERY goal a priority, so make sure you’re clear on what really matters to you.

  3. Find a new way. If you’re disappointed because you missed out on something really important to you, reexamine your approach. There might be another way to achieve your goal. For instance, if getting outside daily is important, set an alarm on your phone to alert you when it’s time to take a break and get outside. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, you’ll feel better at having done what you set out to do.

  4. Live and learn. Without judgment, look back on what didn’t go as planned. Get curious about why that was the case. And then decide what you could do differently next time to change the outcome. Remember: this isn’t an exercise in beating yourself up. It’s just a chance to evaluate objectively and look for opportunities for growth.

  5. Be gentle. Always, always be gentle with yourself. You are only human, and you are doing your best. You are enough, no matter what.

Are you struggling with unmet expectations, self-judgment, or anxiety? Through my integrative approach to therapy, I help my clients find the root causes of the issues they’re dealing with, and provide them with practical tools for living their best quality life. Want to learn more? Book a consultation with me here!


The content found on Integrative Counseling and Nutrition Consulting platform is not intended to be a substitute for professional therapeutic advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your psychiatrist, therapist or other qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition.


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