Cautious Optimism: Expectations and Reality

Have you ever experienced excitement about something that fills you with intense, energized joy?  Off to the races, full speed ahead?  No looking back?  That adrenaline rush, the wonderful sensation of powerful feelings that make you feel like you’re nearly invincible?

When we anticipate excitement about something, the event tends to be centered around a potentially positive experience.  The emotional “high” we experience feels so wonderful, that many of us prefer to ride that wave out for as long as possible, instead of looking at the so-called traffic signs along the way (i.e. red and yellow lights, caution signs, stop signs … you get my point!).

What happens then, when you allow “green light” mode to take over, without looking at other things that are going on?  The excitement suddenly slows down and begins to wane.  You feel like you’re crashing, or the event you became so excited about is over, or perhaps it didn’t even happen at all.  This is where hard reality sets in, and you quite understandably feel disappointed, or upset.

So, how do you manage your expectations surrounding an anticipated event, without losing sight of reality?  Cautious optimism is key:

1) Take an honest look at the evidence – To balance expectations and reality, a healthy dose of cautious optimism can be helpful.  You want to feel excited and happy about a potential venture.  You want to feel overjoyed about an anticipated event.  Allow yourself to get excited, but be mindful to keep yourself in check.  Remember:  even if things don’t work out the way you hoped or anticipated, you can always learn from this experience!

2) Create a plan and try your best – Taking steps that are within your control can help manage anxieties and fears that may crop up along the way.  Creating a roadmap of tasks to reach your goal can allow you to experience excitement, in step-by-step fashion.

3) Weigh the risks and the benefits – What are the potential red flags in this situation?  Are they justifiable?  Conversely, what are the benefits of this situation?  Are they possible?

4) Set limits – Would you run across the street without looking both ways?  As most of us know, a more feasible plan would be to approach the crosswalk, stop, look both ways, and proceed in your intended direction while using your best judgement based on the evidence that it is safe to cross.  Setting so-called markers and checkpoints for yourself in an anticipated event can help you set limits that may structure and balance your approach.

5) Practice emotional regulation and tolerance – Excitement and joy, sadness and frustration.  These are common emotions we’ve all experienced.  Having awareness and recognition of your emotional state is crucial.  Exercises related to balancing these emotions are important, so as to not let your emotions take over and overshadow who you are as a person.  Just because something did not work out and you may experience resultant sadness, this does not automatically categorize you as being a sad person.  You are not your emotions!  Emotions are a part of us, and they certainly come and go at different times and in different situations.  Learning how to cope with tolerating such feelings can help you keep your expectations in check.

When it comes to expectations and reality, practicing cautious optimism can be a healthy middle ground for achieving balance when navigating events and situations as they unfold.  Need further guidance?  Please don’t hesitate to reach out!


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