NBH 025: (Un)realistic Expectations

We’re continuing with our theme of things falling apart. In this time in history of everything around us changing, sheltering in place, worldwide health crisis, we're exploring when things fall apart. And today I want to address expectations and if you see in the show notes “un” is in parentheses. I invite you to move from unrealistic expectations to realistic expectations.

And that move might seem very easy, like two letters, but it's really a lifetime of work. I have noticed that lawyers, including myself, are having this sentiment that they're not as productive as they'd like to be. This hasn't changed from how our systems have changed. People have felt that way before, but now it's like, “I thought if I had more time, I thought if I had fewer distractions, I would get more done.”

What this forces us to look at is: what are our expectations? What are we expecting if every day we are not meeting our own expectations? Are these expectations even realistic or are they just setting us up to fail? Then we can keep this story of failing every day and not doing enough, not being enough, not proving ourselves to be the lawyer that we thought we were supposed to be. These expectations that were set up in that old paradigm by, I don't know who. A whole bunch of different streams of consciousness and people and systems and ideas have coalesced to create these expectations of what we think. We think the person next to us has it altogether, and that we are missing something. We're searching for that, or constantly searching for the thing that will validate us that we are enough.

And this idea of overworking is very common, of doing more, because there's always more to do. There's always more to do in your work life and your personal life with your self-care. There's always more to do. And if we figure out how to do more in less time that can be a trap as well. I would like you to explore your expectations. What is your expectation of what you're going to accomplish in your day and your week, your month, and your quarter and your year, and in your lifetime? What do you expect to accomplish in your lifetime? And is that even realistic? I say think big. Think from a bird's eye view what your expectation is. Is it really that I want to bill as many hours as possible? Is it really that you want to make as much money as possible?

Maybe it is and that's fine. Then set the expectations for how much you can do in one day. And of course sometimes we can push ourselves and go past our capacity. And that is exactly why lawyers burn out because they're pushing past their abilities and it takes a toll. The body, mind, soul has to work harder and is going past what we can actually do in a sustainable way. And so what are your expectations? What can you accomplish in a day? How many hours is a good amount of time to work so that you feel sustained and you can have the balance that you want? You can have a personal life, you can rejuvenate, you can rest, you can recharge, you can get a good night's sleep. You can be doing this work for your whole life if you want, or take on other creative projects, create space for these other projects, these other expectations you have.

We want to do all of these things. We want to serve; we want to engage; we want to do volunteer work; we want to take on leadership. But then we get bogged down in the details of our every day work and we can't ever get there. So what is realistic? What is actually realistic for what you can do? I am going through this process with my consulting firm. I want to do a lot of things. I have a lot of creative ideas and they're endless and I'm confident that I'll get them done if I slow down and not just do as much as possible. I can use my energy for the future. Be aware of these unrealistic expectations when we have that feeling, that itch of “I didn't accomplish that thing…Oh, I was going to write that brief today.”

Maybe you're only supposed to write a part of the brief or maybe you're supposed to do some other task or maybe you weren't rested enough or you're burned out and you couldn't do it. This is very humbling work and very good work for you to continue on the track you are to for success. Look at your expectations as everything does crumble, fall apart, dissolve, and die around us. As we know what we've left behind, what is possible for us to do that we could feel really good about ourselves? Because if our expectations are realistic and we meet them, that's the recipe for success and more happiness and more productivity to come into your life and you'll show up more fully for all the people in your life, especially for yourself.

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