We certainly saw the perils of that thinking with Serena Williams in a recent tennis match. So unaccustomed to losing, she banged her tennis racket and later berated a tennis official at the U.S. Open, making her the poster girl for bratty behavior. Again, each of us has an internal oven that controls the temperature of our expectations, and it needs to be monitored to produce the best results.

Did you notice how the word "temperature" also has the word "temper" in it? It means that you can get too hot and angry when your expectations collide with reality. Sometimes you are going to lose, and when it happens, you have to exercise self-control. It may have been better for Serena to set her own internal oven to "simmer" to bring out her competitive juices, rather than the boil we all witnessed.

And speaking of  "boil" look at the example of singer Susan Boyle, the Britain's Got Talent contestant whose initial performance was a worldwide, overnight sensation.

Boyle had a dream to be a singer and defied expectations that someone so plain and ordinary could have such an extraordinary voice. Her story became a metaphor for possibility. But overnight fame became a nightmare when cameras poked at her as though she were a pig on a spit, causing her to have a meltdown from the scrutiny. Then she lost the competition after she and so many "expected" her to win first place—even though second place is still a victory.

Lesson learned is that there are no guarantees in love, in work or in life. However, you have the choice to work hard and smart, simultaneously. Simply working hard is not enough. Case in point: Boyle quietly retreated into a recording studio and now has emerged with a new, polished bob and chart-climbing CD.

One also has to be realistic about job choices. A teacher's salary will never buy as big a house as that of a doctor. If you care more about the house, train for a new job.

What's the last thing every person should do when trying to successfully navigate her expectations?


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