Let me start by telling you a story.
There was a young man, very bright and active, who enjoyed working with his hands. He decided he wanted to build a tree house for his children, as an ode to his own childhood. He started by drawing a sketch of a simple wooden house, straight lines, one door, one window, a small roof, a ladder, grounded on a wooden platform on their garden tree. The man was proud and excited with this small side project, and the children shared his enthusiasm, eager to play in the tree house a few months from then.
He bought the materials and started building the house based on his initial drawings. At the end of each working day, he would work on that wooden platform making sure it was solid enough to handle the weight. A few days later, he started working on the house structure doing all the measurements to ensure the children would have space to stand as well as to lay down. Days went by and he kept working on the house until he decided to take another look at the first drawings. The more he starred at them, the more they felt too elementary. Grabbing the pencil, he started adding more details to the sketches. First, one more window and a bigger door, then a balcony and a swing. At the end, there were already plans for a second floor linking to a slide and a bridge connecting it to another tree right in front.
At a first glance, it seemed an ambitious plan. However, he was an ambitious young man with the right skills for the job. So, he rolled up his sleeves and he put in blood, sweat and tears to bring this plan to life. Every time the kids asked about the tree house, the young man looked at them and said “You must wait. I am giving it everything I have so you get the perfect tree house”. Over the weeks, his dedication and enthusiasm started fading giving way to frustration and exhaustion. He kept working on it. Never once he asked for help. Months went by and one day his work was finally over. There it was: The perfect tree house! A magnificent crafted two-store tree house with big enough space to entertain a group of four or five, with a lovely swing and a spiral slide, and a suspended passageway to the next tree.
Proud of his work, he called for the children to unravel this magic tree house. The kids jumped and screamed with joy, run up into the tree house, went inside, took a few turns on the swing and slide, and went back inside the house to play in their bedrooms. In 10 minutes, it was over. All the hard work, the endless tutorials, the sleepless nights, the extra expenses, dissipated in the twinkling of an eye. Little water drops started falling from the sky. He dropped into a chair, and let the rain wash away his despair.
This is a story of a man who let himself down by his own high expectations. How many times have you let your high expectations crush your energy, your motivation, your inspiration? It is not about having or not the right skills for the job, or lacking ambition. But rather expecting way much from yourself when there is no need. You do not have to prove your worth to anyone. Not to your parents, not to your friends, not to your kids, not to your boss. Not to yourself. Sometimes the simple way is the best way.
Life is not a competition nor a race toward perfection. You do not have to meet every single expectation you set up for yourself. Try dropping your expectations instead, at least your highest ones. Learning how to compromise with yourself does not mean being less ambitious or giving up on your dreams. Look at it as an opportunity to expand yourself, expand your consciousness, your self-awareness. To leave your comfort zone, to try new things, you do not need high expectations. Lean in and take a step outside the box. And if you do not know how, find someone who does.