Lately, I’ve seen many variations of the same sentiment posted across social media. If you use social media at all, I’m sure you’ve seen it (and perhaps posted it to your own page) as well. I’m talking about the posts currently circulating that say things like, “2017 will be your best year!” or “nothing bad will happen in 2017 at all, and you’ll find complete peace and joy, and become a millionaire.” Maybe that last one was an exaggeration, but sadly not by much. While positive thinking is always admirable, setting impossible expectations is never healthy.
Too often at the end of a year, we build up an incredible amount of hype for the incoming year. We place an enormous amount of pressure on having this upcoming year be the “best year ever.” Magazines, television programs, and social media alike tell us that this is a completely realistic expectation. You decide that this will be the year you finally lose 20 pounds. It will also be when you revolutionize your diet, your friendships, your home life, and so on. Promotions will knock on your door, your house will be permanently clean and organized, and people will admire how put together your life has become.
But then January 1st rolls around. You vow to get to the gym as soon as possible, start working overtime to earn that promotion, and do everything else that you’ve set out to do. But then, the weeks start to fly by. Unexpected engagements pop up. You catch a cold, and as a result, miss a week at the gym. By mid-year, you decide that you want to change careers instead of going for the promotion you dreamed about. All of a sudden, you’ve reached the end of another year.
I fully recognize that I’m not going to be popular for writing this post. It is far more thrilling to pick up a magazine while in the checkout lane at the grocery store that tells you three easy steps for never having a bad day in the new year. But you know what? Those articles don’t genuinely serve you. Don’t get me wrong — I love to set ambitious goals. In the past three years, I’ve set some pretty crazy goals that I’ve achieved. However, it is often forgotten that setting goals and setting unrealistic expectations are two separate things. Every time I’ve worked toward each of my many dreams, there were countless disappointments, sad times, and difficulties. That is just how life works. Expecting that any given year will be free of problems puts you in a terrible mindset. When you start to face the inevitable tough situations, having unrealistic expectations will cause you to be one of the worst versions of yourself. You will have less patience and be less understanding when things don’t go as you think they should. If you instead choose to optimistically face whatever comes your way, you will feel a lot less pressure and stress. You can work toward your goals with resiliency, strength, and a positive attitude.
The point in all of this is to encourage you to set realistic expectations for 2017. You will undoubtedly have some incredible moments throughout the upcoming 12 months. Be thrilled for all of the wonderful things coming up this next year! But remember, life doesn’t change because of the resolutions you set. Less-than-happy things, frustrating moments, and difficulties will also be part of your year. It is an unavoidable consequence of the human experience. Beginning your year with healthy expectations will help you to be more resilient through those hard times. As a bonus, being in the right mindset will cause you to appreciate the good times even more. Get excited for all that the new year has waiting for you, but always remember to push through the struggles you face.