Your expectations determine your goals and happiness

Your expectations in life can determine your goals. Your goals can determine your accomplishments. Your accomplishments, in turn, can have a big effect on your happiness.

But life is not a fairy tale, and we singles set ourselves up for disappointment if we see it that way. There's a fine line between realistic desires that stretch us as a person, and unattainable wishes that lead to constant frustration.

How do you achieve a happy medium? How do you make your aspirations challenging without setting the bar so high there's no possibility you'll ever make it?

I think there are a couple wise ways to go about it. Let's look at them.


Adult-level expectations

One of the differences between children and adults is our amount of experience. When I was a boy, I wanted to be a police officer. As I grew up, however, I discovered something disturbing: I wasn't growing much. I finished high school at 125 pounds and 5 feet 7 inches tall.

Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, there were not many female police officers, women who were even smaller than me. Most cops were big, burly men. I could just imagine a 280 pound drunk throwing me across a room! My dream of being a police officer crashed into reality and burned.

Enter another immature expectation. In high school, I Ioved comic books. I mean I read every one I could get my hands on and studied them, especially the art and stories. Off I went to art school to become a comic book artist. Unfortunately, my passion about comics did not translate into drawing talent. Dream #2 down in flames.

Aha! Then came an adult level expectation. I changed my college study to English, specifically writing. I had always had a talent for it. When I graduated from college, I got a job as a newspaper reporter. For the next 30 years I earned my living in various writing jobs, until my retirement.

The moral of my story? We can't all be famous singers, Olympic athletes, or even police officers, but we can find something we have a talent for and be successful.

Making a living and passion

We all need to make a living. We have to find a job that pays the bills. If you find a job you're passionate about too, congratulations! You're among a small minority.

It helps to like your job, but you don't necessarily have to love it. That's where other expectations come in. Millions of people pursue a part-time job or hobby that makes them truly excited. If it doesn't generate any income, that's all right, because they have their steady job for that.

Their job is like the meat and potatoes of life while their secondary pursuit is like cheesecake.

A discerning person does not allow the wrong voices let them get carried away. That's the motivational speaker who says, "You can be anything you want! All you need is desire."

No, you can't be anything you want, and you're foolish if you believe that. Your expectations must be realistic. That's not pessimism. It's simply being an adult instead of a child.

Again, if your regular job doesn't provide you with the fulfillment you need, look for a hobby or sideline that does. Being responsible means you pay your bills instead of giving up security to chase butterflies. That may seem overly cautious to many people, but there are ways to go after your dreams without going into debt then living in your parents' basement.

Today we hear much about entrepreneurs who became millionaires or even billionaires. What we don't hear about are the thousands of folks who ran after hare-brained schemes and went broke.

Use common sense. Start small and work your way up. Don't let your expectations overrule practicality.

Expectations from God

Closely related to the shifty motivational speakers are the preachers of the Prosperity Gospel movement. They raise expectations about God that will never be met.

The lie in their "successful life" message was warned about by Jesus Christ himself. Jesus never promised that Christians would have smooth sailing:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)

Trouble. Not mansions or luxury cars or perfect health. Trouble.

The dangerous part about their message is that God really is good. God is kind. God does love his children. But that doesn't mean we're going to live like princes and princesses in this life. For his own reasons, God doesn't rain down "the best life" to all his followers now. That happens in heaven, not on earth.

Unrealistic expectations from the Prosperity Gospel can lead to disillusionment and bitterness. When you donate or plant a seed or whatever and good things don't come, you feel God is ignoring you. It hurts.

If God never gave us anything more than salvation, we'd still have the most valuable gift of all time. Any other blessing on top of that is gravy. Let's be grown-ups when it comes to God too.

Singles' expectations

As I said at the beginning, life is not a fairy tale, but many of us refuse to give up on that idea. We still think we're going to live happily ever after.

When you don't find the perfect mate — although you expected to — or when you got married and it ended in divorce or widowhood, is it right to say your expectations were too high?

No, of course not. God instituted marriage and blessed it. When sin came into the world, things started to go wrong and are still going wrong today.

The key is not to lower your expectations or have no expectations at all. That leads to a colorless life devoid of hope.

The key is to turn to God for comfort when your expectations don't turn out, and to turn to him in thanksgiving when they do.

Desire for a better life brings hope. The Bible constantly encourages us to have hope. Many things in this world, from Satan to other people, interfere with our hopes and expectations, but that's no reason for us to give up.

We singles must strive for balance, with realistic expectations on one side and ambitious dreams on the other side. Those dreams give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning.


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