3 Key Questions to Sharpen Your Focus

Many people spend their lives trying to meet a secondhand standard. They’re trying to live up to an expectations set by someone else—who may in turn be passing along an expectation that was handed to them. These inherited expectations can be unreasonably high and create a punishing burden.

If you have been diligent in framing your vision, identifying your objectives, setting your goals, and launching your plan, you shouldn’t let someone hijack your time and energy by imposing expectations from the outside.

Who establishes those expectations? Basically, anyone to whom you give power over your life. That could include:

  • Critics—who say you’re not doing it right.
  • Naysayers—who place the burden of past failure on you.
  • Team members—who have their own agendas.
  • Clients—who have unrealistic hopes.

In reality, not all expectations can be met. We are living in real time, with real time setbacks and sidetracks. At times, the winds of modern culture can change quicker than you can adjust the sails. Political and economic dangers often loom beneath the surface like sharks with a sweet tooth.

To navigate these turbulent times and the swirling expectations of others, you must learn to focus and evaluate the demands that others try to impose on you—whether they realize they are doing it or not. The challenge of meeting expectations calls for making evaluations that include asking three key questions.

First, how realistic is my primary objective or goal? Sometimes your stakeholders and even critics are responding to a flaw in your original plan. Seeing their expectations is an opportunity to evaluate and recommit to your original goal. Is it the right one? Does it have natural explosives built in? Does it really reflect the will of stakeholders? Is your primary goal the right one?

Second, what real or imagined fear am I fighting? Why do the expectations of others take on the power they do in your life? What is it about your leadership that leads you to this vulnerability? In whose eyes will I see disappointment if this vision, cause, or objective is not successful?

Third, is my expectation realistic? Just as others place expectations on you, sometimes without your permission, you may be doing that to others or even yourself. Have I set or borrowed an achievement standard that doesn’t reflect personal or corporate resources? Am I reaching farther than my funding or staffing? Have I used a yardstick for success that was handed to me by someone else?

Expectations are moving targets, not fixed. They are situational rather than static. If you don’t meet a personal expectation, you have not failed—you have simply been thrust into a creative environment, where new ideas are born from adjustment, and new goals rise from the ashes.