There is a fine line that you must walk between being confident and not holding on to unrealistic expectations. We all must balance the two and in a way do a delicate little dance in our minds every moment of our lives.

Staying Confident While Letting Go of Expectations
You must be confident in your abilities without holding on to expectations. (Tweet That)

NOTE: For my audio listeners who made it this far wondering, “where is my audio option?” there is none today. I am writing this from a train en route from Boston to New York and honestly don’t want to get funny looks recording it on the train.

Past successes

If you’re a long-time reader, you know that I grew up playing competitive golf. During each tournament, I would constantly call on my memory bank of past shots. Each shot, in some way, reminded me of another similar shot that I had pulled off successfully. Same club, same wind, same situation, often even the exact same location on the same hole.

I had an extensive memory bank to pull from. And I used it to build my confidence before a shot. I would remind myself, “You’ve done this before. You can do it again.” I would picture myself pulling off the shot the last time and transfer that feeling to the current shot. I know that it helped me.

But it wasn’t magic. And it often didn’t work. In fact, most shots didn’t turn out like I wanted them to.

And I had to release the expectation I built up in mind.

The danger of expectations

The same is true for Tiger Woods. Even when he wins a tournament by ten shots and destroys the competition, most shots don’t turn out exactly like he wants to. He usually misses more putts than he makes. His iron shot is ten feet left of where he aimed. His chip rolls four feet past the hole. And he moves on. When the shot is over, he releases that expectation.

That is something I had to learn the hard way. I would build the confidence just fine. I had no shortage of great memories and I knew I could hit certain shots. I had a confidence built on experience and a proven track record. And I also had expectations.

When I hit a shot that did not live up to my expectations, I held onto that expectation, which always led to disappointment. The very thing that I was using to my advantage (confidence-building memories and expectations) became my downfall.

A downward spiral

The unfulfilled expectation led to disappointment, which led to self-loathing, which led to anger, which led to a downward spiral that never seemed to end. At some point, I even lost the one thing that should have kept me going…my memories of past success. In my frustration, I stopped using those memories to build my confidence. I stopped setting any expectations at all.

The same is true in all of life. You closed a sale with a company similar to the one you are about to meet with. So you recall what you did with that previous company. You rehearse and remember. You remind yourself that you can do this. You have done this. And they don’t buy.

Suddenly the dream scenario you built up crashes around you. And your only option is to let it go. To release the expectation. To you can’t close every deal, but you can close the next one.

There are five steps to letting go of expectations after a defeat or disappointment. I’ll cover those in part two tomorrow.

Don’t miss part two tomorrow!
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How have you let unfulfilled expectations erode future performance?

5 thoughts on “Staying Confident While Letting Go of Expectations

  1. Travis Scott says:

    Cliff Hanger…I like it!

    Seriously…this is common for many of us. I can’t wait to read your list tomorrow

  2. Zech Newman says:

    Expectations can be great like you said Matt. Also they can kill and destroy our peace. Great write up I look forward to your next post. Unrealistic expectations have been on my mind a lot lately…

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Interesting Zech. Hope this and tomorrow’s post helps!

  3. Jon Stolpe says:

    I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

    As for unfulfilled expectations, it has taken me a long time to fully recover from a family illness from three years ago. Time has helped to heal the wounds, but there are still some of the scars that leave me gun-shy at times. This obviously can impact my future performance if I let the fear grip me.

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