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Expectations: Simple doesn't always mean easy

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Mark Kloeppel
  • 349th Medical Group
Even if you are not consciously aware of it, you always have expectations. They are always there in everything we do, every day.

One of the most common sources of stress in our lives is our expectations. They can create all sorts of difficulties such as misunderstandings, breakdown in communication, relationship clashes, work-related conflicts and an array of other common problems.

There are two main ways our expectations produce stress. One is that they are often unrealistic or untrue. The other is that most of the time, we are completely oblivious that we even have them.

Individual expectations are not complicated. They often consist of simple ideas such as "life should be fair" and "people should be honest." When we consciously or unconsciously harbor expectations that are too high, we set ourselves up for disappointment. As a result, we may end up feeling frustrated, angry or demoralized.

On the other hand, if our expectations about ourselves, life or others are too low, we may experience decreased self-expression, depression, resignation or diminished self-esteem.

When you become consciously aware of your expectations, this can free you from being dominated by them. You can look at a specific expectation such as "life should always be fair" and then ask yourself is this really true?

When you think for a moment, you will often see things in a much more accurate light. Of course life isn't fair. Earthquakes aren't fair. Street muggings aren't fair. Betrayals aren't fair.

The simple fact is once you are aware of unrealistic expectation and you can properly clarify what true and realistic expectation should be you then gain the power to free yourself from them.

It is really just that simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. It's one thing to become aware of your unconscious expectations. It's quite another to know which ones are realistic. This takes wisdom and most people have more wisdom than they usually give themselves credit for.

Let's take job-related stress as an example. Much job related stress comes from our lack of expertise in handling our emotions and forming healthy, positive relationships. We may also have specific work-related expectations of our commanders, superintendents, supervisors, co-workers and organizations.

Clarity is paramount when leading Airmen and in organizations that provides a service such as the medical group, the military personnel flight or the commander support staff.

If everyone does not fully understand the rules and responsibilities associated with the service you provide or the objectives you are trying to achieve as an organization, confusion is inevitable. If practices are vague, misinterpretation negatively affects productivity. If rules are not specifically laid out, others may try to side-step or break them. Clarification of workplace practices let you spend your time focusing on continuous improvement.

Here are a few steps to take to help build realistic expectations:

Step 1
Mission and vision: Make your mission and vision available to all members of your organization. Established rules, practices and expectations need to be understandable, clear and in reference to the Air Force Instructions, Technical Orders and policies. Clarify consequences that apply in any working situation. Provide customers with clarification of the services you provide, and what a true expectation should be. Most importantly, if you are the customer, it is up to you to fully understand what true and realistic expectations are and if you don't know, ask.

Step 2
Duties: Refer to your job descriptions. Each description outlines the duties, responsibilities and competencies required for the positions. This includes day-to-day work, technical knowledge, Air Force Specialty Code, training levels and knowledge of the rules for the use of equipment.

Step 3
Expectations: Make sure every member of the unit has access to the job descriptions so that everyone is fully aware of expectations. This is not limited to just the newest Airmen.

Step 4
Chain of command: Consistently explain the chain of command. This is especially important when it comes to delegation and addressing grievances or violations. Airmen must know to whom they report and how the chain of command will respond.

Step 5
Policies and procedures: Distribute policies and procedures in writing. Print out policies and procedures and give a copy to each employee. Include the chain of command in order to reinforce who to approach with concerns. Keep an extra copy in an accessible area where you would normally keep written communication and ensure they are in your file plan.

Step 6
Enforcement: Enforce practices and expectations. A clear set of practices and policies is useless without enforcement. Take disciplinary action when necessary and do so fairly. Always be available to answer questions about duties, responsibilities and expectations.
Here I have tried to get across the many different types of expectations, both individual and social that leads to stress in our lives.
These expectations are endless in number. The important things to know about them are: 1) They are usually unconscious and 2) They are frequently unrealistic, untrue or misleading.

Whenever you feel stressed, think about your expectations and how they might be contributing to your problems. Think about expectations you have about yourself. Think about expectations you have about other people and service organizations. Think about expectations you might have about life itself or about how some particular aspect of life is supposed to work.

Lastly, think about any other type of expectations that might be lurking inside you that pertain to the specific situation you are presently faced with.

The more you learn about your hidden expectations, the more power and control you will gain in relation to them. The more you do this, the less stress and frustration you will ultimately have. With realistic expectations, you will also have more confidence and understanding of your leadership and those organizations that provide you services.