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It’s Okay—Even Essential—to Lower the Bar

Many of us are obsessed with productivity and pushing forward. We have high expectations of ourselves and others.

That’s fine. Hopefully much good comes of it.

But sometimes those high expectations don’t make sense—especially not if you desire to be in a decent mood, which, after all, is key to making sustainable progress in any endeavor.

A significant amount of research shows that happiness is relative; that happiness equals reality – expectations.

During periods when external events suddenly shift your reality, if you don’t shift your expectations too, you’re liable to end up frustrated, down, and burnt out. 

If what you dreamed of, thought about, and were excited to do in your head is no longer feasible in the current reality, it’s usually best to change the story inside your head.

Sure, setting your bar slightly higher than what reality has on offer can spur productive action and improvement. Yet constantly coming up short is no fun. It’s not a recipe for growth; it’s a recipe for stagnation.

Consider a few examples:

  • If you were accustomed to your toddler going to day care and now suddenly they are at home full-time with zero help, you’d be wise to lower expectations in other areas of your life.
  • If you are suddenly working harder and with more of an emotional toll in your vocation, you’d be wise to lower expectations in other areas of your life.
  • If you’ve never spent all of your time holed up in a small apartment with your romantic partner, you’d be wise to lower your expectations of each other.

Having a high bar is great—until it becomes the very thing that makes you miserable. Pay attention to what is going on in your head. Pay attention to what is happening in your reality. And adjust accordingly. 


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