Something I’ve been wondering recently is whether there’s a difference between the pressure we put on and the expectations we have for ourselves. Is one more negative than the other? And why can’t we just cut ourselves some slack every now and again?
The truth is that we all have hopes and dreams, some very far-out and others that could become a reality. But it’s not always easy to work out what steps are needed to get closer to them, and even if we do know how to get there, the actions needed are sometimes more difficult than we originally anticipated. If you’re anything like me, you might beat yourself up over the times you fall short of something you thought would be easier to achieve. Is that okay to do?
The more I think about it, the more I think that it isn’t. The world can be tough enough on all of us without needing to add to that ourselves. And isn’t it true that we’re often all our own worst critics? I think it’s so important to have expectations for ourselves, goals that we want to achieve. But I think it’s even more important to lay out these goals in a way that makes them doable. Small steps, a series of reachable goals, rather than one ultimate goal which is practically impossible to achieve straight away.
So, how best to do this? One way that I’m trying out is working backwards in time. Start with that big goal. Write it down, and then think about what needs to happen before that in order to achieve it. Then, take that penultimate step and work out what needs to happen before that. By slowly working backwards from the goal being achieved, you can break down what’s needed into more workable chunks and create a step-by-step guide to achieving it. It becomes a question of when you’re going to achieve it, rather than a case of if you can achieve it.
Alongside this, there are two other things that I feel are needed in order to be able to achieve more: show up, and be accountable. I watched a Modern Family episode recently where Jay reveals his secret to being a good father:
“…when all is said and done, 90% of being a dad is just showing up.”
Whilst that seems like a very simple idea, it holds a massive amount of truth. Showing up is always the first step, because it puts you ahead of anyone not bothering, and it makes you reliable, whether that’s someone relying on you or you being able to rely on yourself. And being accountable? It’s key, because it means putting your best effort into something, and knowing that whatever the outcome, you were enough, you did enough, and there wasn’t anything more you could give.
I think that recognising what it is I’m actually able to achieve, and also making plans for myself that are achievable and tangible, rather than bold claims like “I want to be successful” or “I want to have a purpose”, will really help alleviate those feelings of pressure that I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel. Dream big, sure, but plan smaller, because no one gets where they need to be with just one step.