Expectation is the enemy of financial happiness

By Garrett

Jul 20, 2017


Expectation – a belief that someone will or should achieve something.”


One of the main reasons people seek out financial help – whether through articles, courses or a coach – is they want help putting together a plan. They know they want to make changes in their financial life, but don’t know the steps to go from where they are now to where they want to be.

Once a plan is actually in place and being put it into action, it’s exciting!! You suddenly have a roadmap showing you how to get from Point A to Point B-eing Awesome (yes, I came up with that all on my own). With the path now clear, it’s often all you can do to stop from barreling headfirst toward your long awaited goals.

This desire to make quick headway is natural, and admirable – why wouldn’t you want to make shit happen now that you have a plan?! But it comes with a massive, potential pitfall: expectation. With this newfound plan, you begin to expect that things should happen according to plan, and when they don’t the letdowns can be even greater than BP (Before Plan).


What this looks like in real life

Several months ago a client and I put together a roadmap for how she could better align her spending with her values, stay within her means, but also not live like a pauper. And it was exciting! It wasn’t going to be easy by any means, but having a plan gave her confidence and optimism that “hey, I might actually be able to enjoy this thing called life!”

Not long thereafter though, life happened. She found out the company she’d moved across the country to join would close. Since that was the only reason she moved (and she didn’t love her new city), she wanted to move back to be near family and friends. And while she’d received several job offers in the meantime they varied in desirability and salary, so she didn’t know which one to take, and that created even more uncertainty in her budget and life.

Needless to say, her plan became not only difficult to stick with, but in many cases no longer relevant. The future we had expected back when she was newly employed and in a new place was not going to be. And this was incredibly tough for her (rightfully so!). It was a plan she’d been working on for months, with the hope that it would help her create a future she dared believe could be real. Yet that’s not how things would turn out.

Her challenge now is knowing intellectually that she can’t (and shouldn’t) stick with the old plan, but still feeling guilty and overwhelmed by the fact that nothing is going as planned. Her attachment to what she’d hoped would be is running headfirst into what actually is.


What to do about it

So how do we overcome expectation and not let it be a source of anxiety, stress and guilt? It may sound cheesy, but the best thing I’ve found is remembering that it’s about the journey, not the destination. Since our financial unhappiness is rooted in the expectation of what we hope will be, then the antidote is being in the moment and accepting each new experience as a learning opportunity rather than our plan gone awry. I shared my thoughts regarding expectations and sticking to “a plan” with respect to the road trip I took last year, and much of it is applicable here as well.

This is easier said than done (“no shit, Sherlock” say you the reader). But even if it’s hard, it’s worth trying. That’s because the alternative – where the journey sucks because days are filled with missed expectations and anxiety that life is off track – is a bleak one. It will stop you from accepting what life throws your way and ultimately learning from it – experiences and lessons that will likely be valuable when tackling future plans, too.

While this quote isn’t directly about financial expectation and its pitfalls, it sums up the best way to approach this:

“What’s important is not making a million dollars; what’s important is the person you have become in the process of becoming a millionaire.” — Jim Rohn.

So while you lay your plans and work toward your goals, remember: it’s not about the destination. It’s about the challenges you face and how you react to them (i.e. “the person you have to become in the process”) that will ultimately determine your success and happiness.

Fresh Prince of Bel-Gare

P.S. – I hope to someday consistently live by my own advice. I promise to let you all know and hold a massive celebration when that happens.

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