Many of us strive towards working hard in our endeavors, be it in our careers, marriage, health, volunteering, faith, or anything else for that matter. We hope to be the best we can be, and try to live up to expectations we create for our selves.

These expectations can be the beneficial, but can also be very destructive. I remember a conversation I once had with a friend of mine, Baba Ali, where he told me:

“Nadir, if there’s one major piece of advice I can give you about marriage, it’s to never hold expectations of your spouse. That will only lead to disappointment with each other. Instead, try to grow together and accept things as they come, instead of expecting them to be a certain way.” (paraphrased)

This can be applied to every type of relationship, including the one you have with yourself. Expectations and goals are two very similar, yet different things. When we expect ourselves to be a certain way, or to react in a particular manner, we end up running the risk of disappointing ourselves. When we replace the mindset of expectations into goals, we find that we’re more at ease in continuously trying to become better.

Take for instance, the expectation you may have of being a certain weight. If you hold it as an expectation, you will constantly feel disappointed in yourself until you are at that weight. But, in truth, your disappoint will most likely hold you back from having the motivation to do something towards getting to your ideal weight. Whereas, if you held a goal to be a certain weight, you will continuously work towards it without the pressure and burden of not having reached your ideal weight yet. This allows for you to find motivation to continue working towards your ideal weight, and helps you maintain a positive and optimistic attitude in the process.

It’s best to go easy on yourself and find peace with pursuing things at your own pace. There is no cookie-cutter solution to any goals, because every person is different, and everyone develops at their own rate. Don’t let your own expectations hold you back from pursuing your goals and seeking out happiness. Go with the flow of things. Recognize that things sometimes won’t go your way, but that’s the beauty of it all – you get the opportunity to get back up and try again. Never stop striving towards your goals, regardless of what comes in your way.

The expectations others hold of you shouldn’t be treated any differently. Instead of looking at them as expectations, consider them to be suggestions. The truth is, in the end, it’s YOU that has to stand for yourself, and be proud of who you are. It’s YOU that has to maintain your happiness. No one will give that to you. Be respectful, be understanding, be reasonable, especially towards those who matter most like God, your parents, and your role models. But, remember that you have to make sure you’re happy. As long as what you’re doing doesn’t go against your faith, your beliefs, and your values, pursue it if it’s what makes you happy. But know that whatever you pursue will take hard work and effort beyond what’s normal.

To work against the norm of your life takes courage, strength, faith, and patience. Hold strong to those things as you pursue your goals, and as you break down the weights of expectations of yourself and others. Stay strong and keep moving forward. As a friend reminded me yesterday, “What comes easy won’t last. What lasts won’t come easy.” Keep going, my friends. It’ll be worth it in the end.