Are Expectations Slowly Draining You or Your Workforce?

Sarah Deane: Founder MEvolution
4 min readFeb 22, 2022

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The answer is most likely yes.

At MEvolution we focus on identifying and removing the blockers to human potential. We learned from our data about what is needed for people to perform and feel their best, over many years, that there were a set of capabilities that increased human capacity and allowed people to live in the energy rich state of abundance, growth, and resiliency. A set of behaviors and mindsets, which were attainable to all, that enabled humans to truly thrive and show up to life at full capacity. And that capacity, is the common thread and link between higher levels of wellbeing, engagement, performance and inclusion.

However, we also learned that there were a set of blockers to this. There were behaviors and mindsets that drained capacity and reduced the energy that people had to bring to life, work, and relationships.

From working with many different organizations and people, one key trend in blockers is what we call “shoulds and expectations”. This is when you feel that you should be a certain way or show up a certain way, but this “way” or the image you have of how things should be, is not necessarily based on your own internal compass or value system.

There are all different kinds of shoulds and expectations. “Oh, I should be able to handle this”, “oh, I must be this way because that is how they are”…we’ve all been there, and we all experience them to varying levels. However, when not managed, these shoulds and expectations can drain energy and capacity because it takes the brain work to be anything other than how you are authentically feeling or wanting to be.

You can think of it as wearing a costume. Say you’re going to a party. If you could just show up in the clothes that you are most comfortable in, then there is little effort or energy expended in thinking about the outfit and no discomfort while you wear it. Now, if you’re going to a costume party, it takes a lot more effort. You need to get the costume and put on the makeup. You may feel a little uncomfortable in it while you wear it (who hasn’t felt a little discomfort in the name of a good costume?!). And then afterwards, some time is needed to take off that makeup and costume and go back to your comfortable state of just being you.

It’s a similar concept here. When you’re feeling those shoulds and expectations to show up in a way that doesn’t reflect how you really feel, what you really want to do or how you really want to be, it takes energy to be something else for a moment.

Now, sometimes this is absolutely needed. Sometimes, you may say to yourself, “I’m not feeling so great at the moment, but you know what? I need to show up and bring the positive vibes because that’s what my team, my family or my friend needs at this time”. And that’s totally OK, we all do that sometimes. The first problem occurs when you feel you should be a certain way and it’s directing how you’re showing up automatically. Because then, it’s not a conscious choice. It can impact how you feel and the choices you make.

The second problem is that when you do make the choice to show up differently to how you really feel, you expend energy. So, you need to give yourself some space to recalibrate your energy and re-energize afterwards, to restore the energy you spent showing up in that way.

Our expectations are some of the deepest books in what we fondly call the brain’s library. They can come from the stories of our lives, including from our childhood, society, culture, or the first job we had. And, they can have a knock-on effect to many aspects of our life.

As an organization, expectations can lead to many issues.

  • Leaders and managers may unintentionally place overly high expectations on others, causing them to feel greater pressure or stress than needed.
  • Colleagues may see situations from their own lens of expectations, hindering their ability to meet people where they actually are at, impacting interpersonal relationships.
  • Unrealistic expectations can cause a skewed bar of performance, impacting how fully employees feel a sense of achievement.
  • They can cause increased burnout, stress and overwhelm from both the physical and mental capacity drain that comes with extending past capacity consistently.
  • They can pave the way for other behaviors that drain capacity. Such as people pleasing, rumination, and a lack of healthy boundaries.

Individually, the key is to understand where your expectations come from. As you feel different emotions and you experience different situations, ask yourself, are your expectations aligned? Or, are they stopping you from seeing the reality of the situation?

As an organization, while clear and realistic expectations are good, it’s time to go deeper than that. It’s time to ask:

  • What’s the current state of “shoulds and expectations” in your organization?
  • How do you help employees develop the skills needed to work through them and manage them at a personal level?

After all, it is humans that make an organization. And those that are leading, understand that to create engaged and high performing organizations you have to work at the human level.

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Sarah Deane: Founder MEvolution

Energizing souls by relinquishing blockers, reclaiming mental capacity, restoring energy, and redefining human potential. www.JoinTheMEvolution.com