I’m a big fan of clever lyrics and poetry. The artists who deliver wordplay which makes me think and touches my soul, all while being clever and funny over an interesting musical track – whatever the style of music – are amazing. One of my favorites writes a lot about how he “should” be more famous, more successful – and the various reasons it hasn’t happened.

It’s hard enough not to crack under the pressure of average expectations

Wax, “We Can’t All Be Heroes” 2013

Ah, yes, great expectations: what we put on ourselves, and what we allow others to impose on us. Before you remind me “you talk about big hairy goals all the time!”, yes, I do – and that’s different. Goals are targets, and involve a plan to reach them. If you say, “My goal is to run a marathon by age 40!” and have no plan of how to turn that into reality – it’s not a goal, it’s a wish. With a plan in place to build distance and stamina, register for events to prove out that development, and a specific target race to finish your process, it’s an attainable goal.

Expectations, though, have little or nothing to do with plans and process. The word is often used interchangeably with “goals” and as a catchphrase (“expect success”), but defines as “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future”. Believing in yourself is important, but expecting unrealistic things – things you aren’t willing to work and sacrifice for – is a recipe for failure.

I expected to be a biochemist/geneticist when I was in high school. Then I got to college and screwed around, partied, and didn’t put in the work. Eventually I dropped out before they asked me to leave. That messed with my head for years; until then, I never had to work to be successful in school. Athletic failure I was familiar with. Academically, though, I expected to be able to do whatever I chose.

I think for some of us the dream’s too vivid

And the gift we’ve been given is the curse that comes with it

If you strive for perfection and progress

You beat your own ass in the process

Wax, “We Can’t All Be Heroes” 2013

We are usually our own toughest critics. Most of us will cut someone else any number of breaks, rationalize their struggles, and forgive their failings. But our own missteps? No chance, man. We will punish ourselves, forever in some instances, even if we “know” it’s not our fault.

This isn’t just about your own expectations, though. When you let others impose expectations, when you accept those as your own, you fight a battle that can’t be won. Why? Because their expectations of you aren’t based on you, but are a part of their own reality, their history, their life, their issues.

Stop judging me

I just want to live comfortably

And I ain’t talking about wealth

I’m talking about my brain

I’m talking about mental health

Wax, “We Can’t All Be Heroes” 2013

When you are at the gym, your job, wherever – are you worried about what the person next to you thinks of what you are doing? Or are you focused on yourself and your goals? One of the biggest things I have realized is that generally people aren’t paying attention to me or anyone else.

That’s a bit of an ego hit, right? We are all the centerpiece of our own stories; that’s human nature. However, I am not the centerpiece of YOUR story. Accepting that goes a long way towards focusing on what I can control.

Stop judging me

I look around and suddenly

I realize that there’s nobody else

The only one judging me is myself

Wax, “We Can’t All Be Heroes” 2013

So what’s the moral here? It’s down to this: you can choose to be controlled by expectations, ideas of “the perfect you” which can never be met. Alternately, you can accept that you are human, and work to achieve the things that matter to you. Live your life all in. If you come up short of your goal, you regroup, get a new plan, and go back to work. We can’t all be heroes – but we can give our best effort every day.

Cover Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash


Like, there’s bad words in here and stuff: