I don't think I've ever been accused of having reasonable expectations. That's not who I am. So why would now be any different? Should it be?
I expect a lot of myself, regardless of what area. I always say yes to too many people, I volunteer for too many organizations, I take on too much at work, I expect to do more physically than I have the time or training to do, etc. Perfect example? Planning a skydive for mid-May. Now, it sounded like a great idea. But when I asked the Thoracic surgeon if it was ok if I jump she just laughed at me. You see, I hadn't thought through all the reasons that it might be too challenging. For example, wearing a harness, the tug on my body when the shoot opens. etc. So, I have to change it. But, I had the expectation that I would be able to do it and then reality hit.
Another example, my lung surgery. As I read about it, and compared it to my big surgery in June, I kind of minimized it. I thought "I'll be up in no time, the surgery is on a Wednesday I should be back at work on Monday, I won't have any pain, blah blah blah. Well, welcome Mr/Ms cold hard slap of reality! None of those things happened.
The last example of expectations vs reality (before I think through why I set myself up repeatedly) is my climbing of New Hampshire's Mt Washington in February of 2007 with my close friend Mark.
Some real stats. Until recently, Mt Washington held the record for the highest recorded wind speeds on Earth. It now holds the record for the lowest windchill temperature. More than 161 people have died on Mt Washington due to the cold (for comparison, 310 have died on Mt Everest. More than half as many people have died on a mountain almost 20% the size of Everest!) Mt Washington is in New Hampshire, is 6,288 feet (Everest is 29k+), has a train and a road to the top in the summer, and a gift shop on top in the summer. So, of course, I only paid attention to the gift shop/train/road pieces and climbed a Stairmaster a few times with a backpack to train. I summited it (another story but not easy and pretty miserable) but my expectations of myself were definitely out of whack with the situation. So let's dive into the why.
Simply put, lower expectations are not fun. Who wants to set their sites low and make everything easy? There is no fun in that and you certainly don't learn a lot about the experience or yourself in the process. I'm sure there is a happy medium and that might be my new quest.
So I really reach (thanks Casey Kasem for the immortal "keep your feet on the ground but keep reaching for the stars" quote). The reaching is part of the fun. Imagining myself on the top, walking miles 3 days after surgery, having no pain, skydiving right after a hospital stay, those things get me through. They give me hope and give me things to look forward to. So I guess I'd have to say that expecting too much is motivational for me (good thing I haven't learned to get too disappointed if they don't happen).
Sometimes, expecting too much can be a letdown but more in my mindset. So, if I underestimate a climb or a surgery, it serves me great until I am going through it. Then I find myself a bit disappointed. But, hey, then I just reset my expectations all over again!
So, the lesson I am learning (I think) is to keep setting my expectations high. Sometime I will hit them. Sometimes I won't. But I will always feel better about reaching than I will about settling.