Do You Have Unrealistic Expectations?

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by Kathy Harris

A familiar feeling nagged as I walked out of my office one recent Friday afternoon. I was late, as usual, and I hadn’t accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish that week. An important work project still languished, half-finished, on my desk. A blog post was imminently due. And I desperately needed to finish the edit of my working manuscript.

It didn’t help that I’d just read a commentary from a well-known national motivator. He had outlined ‘three easy steps to staying on track.’ And, of course, his final step–and cardinal rule–was to always leave the office on time.


I closed and locked the door and rushed to my car, scanning my brain for the best to-go options for supper. Maybe one day I could plan and cook weeknight suppers again. After I had cleared my to-do list, I could move on, fill it up again and start over.


It was a vicious cycle, wasn’t it? For months, years, I had been rushing to finish deadlines, only to encounter new ones. What was wrong with me? How did everyone else manage to get it all done?

Then came the moment of realization. Looking back over the past weeks, months, years, I realized I had accomplished a lot. Not just one blog post, but one every week. Not just one major work project, but many. If I really thought about it, it was an inspiring list of achievements. And meals? I hadn’t just fed my family, I’d provided a variety of choices, most of them nutritious. I wasn’t The Pioneer Woman, but there could only be one of those. I had to be the best me. I had to set the best goals for fulfilling my calling in life.

Could it be that I was getting more done than I gave myself credit? Maybe I was living with unrealistic expectations.

That day I decided to keep a journal. Nothing elaborate, just a short list of the things I had accomplished each day. In deference to the motivational post I’d read earlier that morning, I divided it into three sections: Duty Goals, Life Goals, and Daily Goals.

Duty Goals were the things I had to do. Grocery shopping, housework, etc. And, I decided, there was nothing wrong with cutting a few corners now and then. Home-cooked food wasn’t necessary for every meal.

Life Goals were my bucket list items. Those would take care of themselves in time.

Daily Goals were an extension of my long-term ambitions, the small steps I must take each day to move along my bigger goals. The key was realizing that baby steps are still steps in the right direction. Getting in a hurry–taking life’s timing into my own hands–didn’t necessarily put me ahead. But it could wear me down.

Former acquisitions editor, author, and literary agent Karen Ball recently blogged about the toll that fatigue can take on our lives, offering the reminder that “…the completion of this task isn’t on you, but on the One who gave it to you. Rest in Him.”

Karen referenced Matthew 11:28-30. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (NIV)

Rest. It would become my fourth and final goal.

And, in the future, I will try to be easier on myself whenever I am assessing my progress. After all, my Father in Heaven is the One Who is truly in charge of my days… and His yoke is easy.

Kathy Harris writes women’s fiction and romantic suspense and is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency. Connect with Kathy on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments 0

  1. Kathy, thanks for sharing these thoughts. I’ve had this tab open since yesterday as I meant to read it as I hurried from one thing to another. The title grabbed me because I often have this trouble.

    Often my daily to-do lists are longer than I could ever finish in a day when it includes my day job and family responsibilities. And then, I’m so disappointed in my limited-ness. I never meet my own expectations.

    That’s a hard way for me to live.

    Thanks for sharing your life here and offering this reminder! It’s given me food for thought in my own life.

  2. Kathy,I enjoyed this post. I like the breakdown of duty goals, life goals and daily goals. It’s always easier to feel overwhelmed and like we didn’t get through our “list” when in reality, we’ve accomplished a lot more than we realized!

  3. Barbara, I’d say there are many people like us. In fact, it’s no doubt a centuries old problem. I take comfort in this reminder from Psalm 139:16 ‘Every one of my moments was laid out before a single day had passed.’ What a reassuring thought!


  4. Great post, Kathy. I’m another person who is forever looking at my to-do list and feeling discouraged because it never gets any shorter.

    Thank you for the reminder to look back and celebrate what I have achieved, not just to look forward and panic about what I haven’t.

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