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January 1, 2012

Tip of the Week 

Insurance Against Mediocrity 

Expectation Guilt

What is Guilt: A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined. Guilt is hooked to the past.

What is Expectation: Looking forward to a specific outcome, whether feared or hoped for. Expectations are formed by past experience as a prediction of future results.

Why It's Important: With expectations, we naturally focus on a definite idea of how things ‘should’ be and the anticipated results that fall out from that. This orientation captures our attention and ties results to assumptions and preconceptions. Often reality fails to meet expectation.

The Problem: Too many people live in a state of conflict: Other People’s Values (expectations) vs. Their OWN Values (standards). A few examples of conflict:

  • Spending money on yourself when others expect your charity, generosity, abstinence, etc.
  • Spending time on yourself when other expect sacrifice, service, help, etc.
  • Saying 'no' when others expect you to say 'yes'
  • Needing help to satisfy personal needs--even basic ones like food, love, attention, respect--when others expect you to be a bootstrapper

Behaving contrary to the expectations of others sets you up for feeling guilty unless you understand the distinction between expectations and standards.

What is a standard? Behaviors you willingly choose to hold yourself to. Standards are more likely to consider present values, truths, skills, and goals.

The distinction in a snapshot:

Distinction between Expectations and Standards - Peacemaker Coach

Tip #1:  Release Guilt

Remember who is in charge of your life—You. You will ultimately carve the words written on your tombstone.  Will it read:

Here rests a person who did something important


Here rests a person who could havedone something, if only so-and-so thought it worthy.   

Where are all these expectations coming from, and when did you accept them?  Think of a 1 or 2 missed expectations and ask these questions:

  • Why was I expected to do it?
  • What was the payoff  to the other person?
  • Does the expectation consider my present circumstances and standards?

Perhaps you'll find that you're feeling guilty over something selfishly  and unreasonably expected by another person.

Tip #2:  Prevent Future Guilt

Delete the strivers from your relationships. People who strive can be exciting and fun to be around, but they cost you dearly. Strivers drain your energy away because they need you to encourage them; they need you to agree with them, they need you to keep up with them, etc.

Try this:          

1.  Scan your friends for strivers. Pick 1 or 2 that seem the most driven to perform or to appear a certain way in the eyes of others.

2. Remember a time in which you failed to meet this person’s expectation. Try to recall the circumstances and as many details about the expected action, result, and feedback you received from this person.

3. Make a list of 5 to 10 things that were/are good about missing! What did you learn and how can you incorporate your wisdom into a standard that will guide your actions in the future?

4. The next time you feel motivated by this person, ask yourself whether the action is because of an expected result or whether your action is spurred by a standard you have. Check the distinction snapshot again if you’re not sure what I mean.

The Benefit: 

  • Awareness increases as you learn/practice the skill of observation.
  • Develop a new set of standards that are really useful to you.
  • Recognize the benefits and drawbacks of following strivers and give yourself conscious control--choice 
  • Orient yourself around opportunities.  Opportunities are in the present, guilt is in the past, and expectations are in the future.
  • Free up time for people and projects with real value vs. potential value and no real prospect.  

Caution!  Caution!  Sabotage Alert!


Watch for any standard that becomes an expectation.  Remember that as perfect humans, we are imperfect—we make mistakes. Make sure your standards don’t turn into self-sabotaging perfectionism.

Related Article: Genuine Curiosity, Give Your Mother a Break, Mrs. Michael's Mommy, Guilt, Expectations, and Standards

Related Tip: Ignore List, Peer Pressure, Accept vs. Agree, Rush


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