Setting Expectations

Setting expectations for yourself and others seems to be what we all do. In order for you to learn more about expectations, lets figure out what they are first.

What Are Expectations?

According to the dictionary, expectations are a belief that someone will or should achieve something.  Basically, its something that either you or someone is supposed to do. 

Many of these ideas have been ingrained in your mind since you were a small kid. Your parents taught you what was right from wrong. 

You knew what you were supposed to do to be seen as a good kid. These expectations that we learned are the outcome of your values and morals that you grew up with.

If you think about it, you have has grown up with a set of values that were taught to you by your parents, teachers and other people in your life. 

You might have very strong beliefs to follow the rules whether they are are written or unwritten.  Or, you might throw caution to the wind and believe in breaking the rules.  It all depends on how you were brought up and expected to behave.

Sometimes its just a rule that you set up such as "I expect the dishes to be done immediately after dinner," or its ingrained in your mind such as "I expect a man to hold the door open for a woman."


Why Do You Set Expectations?

Setting Expectations

There are many reasons you have for setting expectations in your life. 


  • You need to reach a goal or to have a smooth running life with no bumps in the road. 


  • For a structured and orderly life.  When you set goals it helps to keep things in order and helps keep things running smoothly.  


  • To improve your well-being or to better yourself.  When you set a goal to complete something, such as college, fits in this category.


  • Keeping yourself from being hurt and being safe and secure. Examples are wearing a seatbelt, not drinking and driving and so on.


  • When you hold others accountable for an outcome.  This is where the authority figure steps in.  Teachers, parents, managers all expect you to do things whether its homework, chores or writing reports.


Did you ever consider that you could be adding meaning to your life when you set these goals or expectations?


When Should You Set Expectations?

  • When you embark on something new or want to change the way things are.  For instance, when you start a new job.  You'll plan on getting there on time, show you're a hard worker and set internal rules for yourself to be successful in this new job.


  • As a parent you need to set expectations and rules for your kids as they're growing up.  You should expect your kids to do chores, homework and other things.  You need to set the ground rules when they're young.


  • Kids, themselves, need to set their own expectations on their grades and other activities. When they practice a sport, kids will expect to improve and move up to higher levels as they master the techniques.

Where Do You Set Expectations?

In every part of your life, you're expected to behave in a certain way so that you fit within that environment.  When you're at home, work, school, on a team, having fun, driving or any other part of your life, you will always be setting expectations of behavior that you need to follow.  Even if its something small like not littering when you are out hiking.

When you're at home, school or work there are certain expectations you follow such as respect your parents, teachers, boss or coach.  While having fun at an activity, your expectations can be totally different.  You might loosen up, laugh more, stay up late, sit back and do nothing.

Your expectations for your behavior are different in both of those situations. You know how to act and you expect yourself to do the right thing.  Of course, not everyone does the right thing.  They might have a different set of expectations for themselves.


Who Do You Set Expectations For?

You are always setting expectations.  You as a parent, set them for your children by expecting them to behave properly, do chores, homework, etc.  Kids set them for parents by expecting them to buy food, pay for heat, housing, clothes, etc.

Other examples are teachers and students, managers and employees, the government and the people, spouses and their relationships.  If you didn't have these expectations of the other person, then the world could become a chaotic place.  Things wouldn't get done or you could end up doubling your effort when there's no need.


How Do You Set Expectations?

Setting expectations is learned during your childhood.  It starts in your mind.  When you're a baby and you cry, you expect to be comforted.  As you grow up you expect your parents to take care of you.

As you get older you start setting expectations for yourself and others.  Not only is it still in your mind, but you begin to set them down on paper as goals or in a face-to-face situation.  These could be teachers assigning homework, at a meeting where each worker does their share or a family discussing what needs to be done to clean a house.

Another way you show people what is expected is to just live it.  Let others know what a success mindset looks like and what the results are for your efforts.

Just by working hard or doing the types of things you do to achieve something will show someone else what they can expect if they do something similar.

If you're successful, others will want to emulate you and become a success as well.

After you spend time learning about expectations, think about how you look at them.  Ask yourself these questions.  What do you expect of yourself?  What do you expect of other people?  Do people need to meet up to your expectations?  How do you meet up to your own expectations?

Your answers could clear up some misconceptions about yourself.  You will learn more about why you behave the way you do and how you could change things to reach your goals.



Taking Action

You need to analyze your expectations and why you set them, especially for someone else.  By analyzing yourself, you can learn the best way to fulfill your expectations or learn how to change them to be more suitable to other people or situations.

As you develop your leadership potential over time, you will find there are many factors that could deter or change your expectations.  Think about the things that guide you in setting expectations for yourself.  Your morals, values, religion, upbringing, peer pressure, education and many other factors affect the type of expectations you set and keep.

This is true for the person you are with as well.  The expectations you set for them should be based on their upbringing rather than just yours.  When you are setting expectations for someone else, you need to decide the best strategy to take.  Because the action you take will affect the reactions you get from other people.

An example of this is when your child wants to be a famous movie star.  The outside factors that come into play are how you as a parent, feel, peer pressure, society's message that the odds are slim to none and a whole host of other issues. 

There are a couple of ways to go about working with them.  You can back them up and set expectations that they can do it or you can agree with society and say it won't work. 

Whatever strategy you use, it will affect how your child reacts.  There's a fine line that plays into both of those situations.  Having the right leadership style can affect the outcome of either of the choices.

Let's say you set the expectation that your child can become famous.  Then they will work hard and they might have some successes along the way.  There might be different outcomes as well. 

Your child could make it to stardom as you expected or they might not be famous and feel like a failure.  Which could be what you thought might happen as well.  There's still another way and that is to could keep plugging along setting new goals to slowly reach success as a star.

You can agree with society and tell your child she can't become famous because its too competitive out there.  She could rant and rave that she will never be anything, she can prove you wrong or she could rethink her expectations and come up with an alternative plan.


How Does This Tie Into Leadership?

As a good leader you have the capability of bringing out the other person's expectations.  Whatever methods you use to bring out these expectations will determine whether you will be successful in getting them to meet your goals. 

When you are setting expectations for someone else, the harder you work with that person to accomplish them, the more successful they'll be at achieving them.  That's where good leadership skills come in.  The situational leadership traits you use can help determine the outcome you want.


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