Goals and Expectations: There’s a Difference

by | Jul 6, 2020

I’ve never studied the Enneagram. I’ve been told I am likely a “Type One.” (My wife and I did start the Enneagram course on Business Made Simple University last night…so we’ll see if folks are right.)


According to The Enneagram Institute:

“Average Ones are idealists, striving for perfection and order in every area of their lives, especially their emotional lives, in an effort to control both themselves and their environment so that errors and failures of all sorts will not be introduced. Inner-motivated by strong consciences, they are organized and efficient so as not to waste time and other resources or allow themselves to be in a position for their consciences to rebuke them for being imperfect, for not trying hard enough, or for being guilty of some form of selfishness.”

Striving For Perfection and Avoiding Failure

I have very high expectations for myself. As I said in a previous post, I often expect myself to be perfect out of the gate. Sometimes, I’ll avoid doing things I’m not confident I can do well.

The bar I hold for myself is high for everything I do. This plays out in a few ways.

Work insanely hard to make sure I am the best and produce the best results in whatever I happen to be doing at any given moment.

  • In high school, I would play guitar for up to 7 hours per day when we weren’t in school. My fingers would be in so much pain I’d soak them in ice water to be able to keep playing.

Downplay the results of a personally perceived poor performance in something.

  • “I haven’t picked up a guitar or drum sticks in months.”
  • “I put this together super fast.”

Avoid something altogether for fear of failing. This plays out most often professionally.

  • I put off becoming a StoryBrand Guide for a year because I thought I wasn’t good enough.
  • Sometimes, I avoid marketing my services to grow my business for fear of getting in over my head.

All of this is a result of high expectations for myself as opposed to lofty goals. Expectations are something I feel at any given moment. They’re sometimes completely unrelated to any long term goal I have for myself.

High expectations can even be connected to things I know I’m not good at, but as a perfectionist, think I need to execute to perfection.

High expectations lead to deep anxiety and stress when you don’t meet them every single time.

Goals are different

Expectations and goals are not the same. You might set a goal and have an expectation to meet it. That goal is set far enough into the future to allow for time to put in the work to achieve it.


I have the goal of growing my communications and marketing business to exceed $250,000 in a year. For sure, I expect to meet that goal. However, I don’t expect it to happen overnight. I know there will be wins and losses along the way to this initial goal.

Because I know this goal won’t happen overnight, and there will be ups and downs, it gives me the ability to remove some of the day to day stress of meeting it.

Goals provide time to develop strategy and execution plans to achieve them. Expectations are often unrealistic and assessed in the moment.

Expectations often push me to make excuses or avoid things altogether, goals motivate me to work day in and day out to achieve them.

When you have a goal set in advance, you can reverse engineer the goal to create a clear path to achieving it in time.

If you have high expectations for yourself in every moment, you rarely have time to see the path before attempting to execute a task.


High Goals. Reasonable Expectations.

I’m learning to have higher goals and more reasonable expectations for myself. I’m an ambitious person so my goals will always be lofty. However, being someone that deals with a lot of anxiety, moderating my minute-to-minute expectations is crucial.

Setting goals allows me to visualize and create a path between my current reality and my desired one. I can remove the expectations to achieve my goals too quickly because I understand the timeline that is necessary to achieve my goals.

When I focus on goals instead of expectations, stress and anxiety drop, and fulfillment and excitement increase.


How do you manage expectations and set high goals?


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