Unrealistic Expectations: “You’re Just Not That Good!”

You know how you can learn big ideas in the most mundane situations? If you pay close attention to life around you, you can usually pick up on truths that God is dying to share with you. It happened to me once when I was playing golf with a business associate, John, several years ago. It had to do with expectations.

Golf Frustration


John was telling me of another time he was playing golf with a friend of his. John had not been playing as well as he would have liked and his behavior was showing it! After several bad shots, John slung himself back into the cart with clear frustration. Bill finally spoke up.

“John,” Bill said with a pause, “You’re just not that good!”

John was stunned, he tells me later. But then it hit him what Bill was saying. See, Bill was trying to help John recognize that going to the golf course once a week did not give him the right to get upset over not-so-great shots. Bill knew it would take much more work and dedication than John had given so far before he could rightfully get upset at his less-than-stellar results.

Expectations vs. Commitment

John wanted to see exceptional results from less-than-exceptional commitment. Like many of us, his expectations were unreasonable when he considered what he had put into the game.

Now, how do we apply this at work and with our faith?

Simply put, we need to match our expectations with our commitments.

You could start with your expectations and let them lead you to the commitments you need to make. Or you could begin with your commitment levels and then determine reasonable expectations from them. You could even use one method for certain areas of your life and then switch to the other method for the rest.

It really is not important which one you use first. The key is to make sure they match. High commitment levels and low expectations will likely cause you to fall short of your potential. High expectations and low commitment levels will probably create frustration as it did with John.

LIFE Planning

Soon, I will be sharing with you the methods I use to determine my expectations and commitments during my own personal LIFE planning each year. My intent is not to show you the only way to do so, but simply the way I choose to do it.

If you already have your own plan, I hope you can find something worth adding to your own method. If you have never done this before, I want to give you some ideas that can get you started. Either way, I strongly encourage you to take time to plan your year.

If you do not fill your schedule with your own priorities, other people will fill it in with their own!

Are your expectations reasonable in light of your commitment levels?

Where do you need to change your commitment or expectations?

What can be your next action step toward making this happen?

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  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com/ Loren Pinilis

    Wow, this series sounds really intriguing. I’m really loving the concept of matching your expectations with your commitment. I think that’s something that’s so common sensical, but how many of us actually do it? I think that’s a huge source of frustration. You’ve really got me thinking with this one. This is good stuff!

    • http://www.christianfaithatwork.com Chris Patton

      Thanks Loren.  I am looking forward to doing the series.

      You are right about matching expectations and commitment being common sense, but it is also true that we fail to do it consistently.

  • http://www.christianfaithatwork.com Chris Patton

    Thanks! I will be posting on those methods very soon. Sign up to receive the posts through email and you won’t miss them!

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    There is a tremendous amount of wisdom in this statement: “We need to match our expectations with our commitments.” So often, we (meaning me) get frustrated because our expectations were not met. And, almost equally as often, the reason ours expectations were not meant is because our commitments did not come close to what our expectations required in order to be met. I agree totally that we need to make a deliberate effort to match our commitments with our expectations and vice versa, but I also think it’s okay to have our expectations be a litttle bit higher in hopes of pulling our commitments up at least to some extent. Now, doing this in every area of life all at one time probably is not wise, but if we have one area where we are challening ourselves in this way, I think we are retraining our thinking in a positive way.

    • http://www.ChristianFaithAtWork.com/ Chris Patton

      Great thought Kari! I could have been a little more specific.

      I also believe our expectations should stretch us. I think you get the idea, but I am trying to propose that too often we set higher expectations without adjusting our commitment level. Or we set a low commitment level without adjusting our expectations. There really is no way to match them up exactly, but if one is high, the other should be. If one is low, then the other should be.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    “John wanted to see exceptional results from less-than-exceptional commitment.” Excellent insight, Chris. A good reminder for me as I look at both writing and marketing. Both areas involve a commitment to do well. Anything less than working at my craft would be a lottery-ticket mentality.

    • http://www.ChristianFaithAtWork.com/ Chris Patton

      “Lottery-ticket mentality” is exactly what it is. Great analogy!

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

        Jon Acuff in his book “Quitter” put that analogy in my mind. It reminds me of how I sometimes think about writing (get the book out there, make a million bucks, take vacations where palm trees sway).  I am thankful that the journey involves more effort than that because I’m not motivated by the money (although making enough to buy a weekly round of pb & j sandwiches at home would be nice), but I’ve learned to enjoy crafting stories. I can now see why Stephen King writes every day. He loves to tell stories.

        • http://www.ChristianFaithAtWork.com/ Chris Patton

          I have not yet read that book, but I hear good things about it. Thanks for the insight!

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  • http://www.coachbrown.org/ Coach Brown

    We live in a world that wants us to tell our kids that you can be anything you want to become. Our entitlement society says everyone is a winner and should get the trophy. I learned to enjoy playing golf (when I played) when I accepted the fact I was not as talented as I would like to be, and bad shots were going to happen…as were bad decisions about shots I would try to make out of ignorance of my own talent level. Good reality check today Chris. Effort = Results is an axiom learned long ago and shared with all that I coached over the years.

    • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

      I relate to what you said about accepting the fact that you weren’t as talented as you would like to be, but my perspective is through running. So many people I know are so much faster, have more endurance, etc., and I’ve tried, but my body just doesn’t cooperate. Effort = results… I still get results even though I’m not the best.