Whose Standards Are You Meeting?

I am behind. WAY behind, and I have been for over a month now.

This blog was supposed to be written 3 weeks ago, and there was also supposed to be a newsletter that accompanied it a few days after. Whoops.

We have had some big personal stuff to handle, and my work load got a bit hairy in September and October. I set my expectations of myself a bit higher than I needed to, and also had to let some of those expectations go. Not because I couldn’t do it – because I chose not to do it. I chose to NOT to stay up until midnight every night, and I chose to put my health ahead of work projects being perfect.

Was that wrong? I honestly don’t know.

I don’t think we will ever know if every choice we are making is the exact right or wrong one for each situation, but we can do our best to do to the “next right thing” in our moments of choice.

In moments of high stress or overwhelm, it can be helpful to stop ourselves for a moment to consider: “What is the absolute one thing I need to do right now to keep sane?” A few weeks ago, that answer for me was: “GO TO BED. You are exhausted, can no longer be productive, and will ruin tomorrow’s chances at productivity if you don’t sleep.”

And while we are drowning in “To Do” lists, emails, or meetings, there is another trick that might help you evaluate how you are spending your time. Each time you feel behind or overwhelmed, ask yourself,

“Whose expectations am I trying to meet, and how might that be impacting how I feel?”

There is a chance that you are trying to meet expectations set by someone else (i.e. a report that someone is asking for, or the kids need you to cook dinner). But it could be even more likely that you are trying to meet an expectation that you set for yourself – whether you realize it or not.

Examples:

  • Does that report need to be absolutely perfect right now, or could I put in 80% of the effort and the client/boss/team will be happy?
  • Do my kids require organic home-cooked meals, or is that a standard I have set for myself and my family’s nutrition?

Most of the time we don’t even realize that we are the ones setting ourselves up for overwhelm and stress, but we are. WE are doing it! My personal expectations for my writing are perfect examples. Has anyone other than me set expectations on blog topics, length, or timing? Nope- just me. Who expects me to send monthly newsletter? All me.

Once I have flushed out the uncomfortable truth that I am responsible for the standards trying to be met, it is then up to me to choose what to do with it. Do I decide those expectations should be upheld and stay up late one night writing, or do I instead choose to let the expectation go and focus on my health?

There is nothing wrong with my habit of having high expectations for the work I produce for clients and customers, but there is a point when those expectations might not be serving me in the best way possible anymore.

So what about you? What is overwhelming you right now, and who is setting the expectations for those situations? Could you be partially to blame? If so, how might you start exploring other options around those standards? How could you give yourself a break?

And believe me, I know you might not have enjoyed reading this. Writing about this stuff is my job, and a professional standard I refuse to let go of.

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