Being a perfectionist is a blessing and a curse. I’m very detail-oriented and responsible. I strive for excellence. I have big dreams for the future. Sounds like a good thing, right?
But, I’m an over-thinker. I hyper-analyze and obsess about little details. I tend to fantasize and build up my expectations in any situation.
Here’s a secret that I recently realized: lofty expectations often lead to disappointment.
Trying to figure out what is going to happen next often puts unnecessary stress on you and others. If you’ve already come up with the best possible scenario in your head before going into an event, how likely is it that it will actually match that expectation?
Now, I get that it is impossible to actually live without expectations. We can expect that the sun is going to rise in the morning. We can expect that we are going to get our paycheck at work. It’s okay to look forward to things. The expectations we can afford to lose are the little things that keep you up at night. Those situations that you hope and agonize will turn out the way you’ve planned. This outlook isn’t meant to be pessimistic. There is a difference between expectations and dreams. I think we should try not to stress about the little things so that we can strive to achieve the bigger ones.
I’ve never been a “go-with-the-flow” type of girl. Recently, I’ve been realizing that I put too much pressure on things that are out of my control. So, I decided to adopt a new state of mind. Here is how I’m trying to do it:
1. Living in the present
- Focus on what is currently happening and what is immediately in your control
2. Being receptive to what life serves you
- Take life as it comes. It is possible to assess the situations around you and evaluate possible outcomes without putting too much pressure on what comes next
3. Thinking about others
- We often spend so much time worrying about ourselves, we forget that others may have different perceptions and expectations. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
4. Doing things that make you happy
- When you enjoy the things around you, you can place less of an emphasis on what comes next
With my last year of college already in full swing, I’m trying to enjoy every moment. Taking it day by day and not getting too bogged down by what could happen next. When I let myself get overwhelmed by the unknown, I often miss the wonderful things that surround me. So if I try to live without expectations, hopefully I can be pleasantly surprised more often. If things don’t go my way, it’s going to be okay. And if things do, then it’s extra awesome! I’m probably still going to obsess over details and think about what will happen in the future. But, when I get frustrated that something doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would, I will try to take a step back and let it go.
As they say, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift; that’s why it’s called the present.”
Lilly Claar is a senior at Penn.