Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Expectations Versus Reality

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Most of us have an idealized vision in our heads of how our lives are supposed to turn out. The creation of this vision starts relatively early in life. Donald Super, in the context of career development, called the early creation of this vision the growth stage and saw it roughly coinciding with the ages of 7-14, a time where kids develop self-concepts based on real or perceived abilities and start to have ideas about the world of work, although these ideas are obviously pretty crude.

This problem of crudeness persists as time goes by for many. What we mean is that secret expectations don’t align with reality, or better said the chances of these expectations coming to fruition are pretty low. This situation invariably leads to disappointment and regret in adulthood, the sense of living a life foreign to what was supposed to happen, but for a lot of people what was supposed to happen never could have happened because it was a childish fantasy. Others attain exactly what it was they were going after but find that the reality of their situations, how they actually feel now that they have attained their goals, doesn’t match what their expectations were. They don’t feel fulfilled, they wonder “Is this really all there is?”

Of course dreams and aspirations are a good thing, a necessary thing even, and at least in our Western culture looking towards the future with hope, striving towards some goal, is indicative of mental health. But this doesn’t mean you should lose sight of the present moment, all the joys of life that are accessible to you right now. If as an adult you find yourself deflated, lost either because your dreams were thwarted or because upon acquisition of these dreams nothing really changed for you in the psychic sense,  the antidote is the mindful attitude where you stop worrying about how things ought to be and start focusing on how they are. The ‘ought’ is sure to foster a sense of ill-being because it keeps you from any authentic contact with the present moment. You’re always degrading this present moment instead of embracing it.