Why it’s okay to “fall normal” of expectations

Right now, one of my favorite hashtags is #ExpectationVsReality.

I’m not sure I’ve found one more relatable than this one above. Who hasn’t done their hair, indulged in expensive makeup and cute shoes just to walk outside and look like a wet rat because #humidity? I know this FL girl sure has!

It gives me a little comfort to know that sometimes instagrammers and social influencers aren’t always perpetuating an achievable reality and that we all fall short, or should I say “fall normal” most days?

No matter how often I remind myself that no one is perfect, I still find myself comparing my reality to the unattainable perfections projected online.

I’m most guilty of this in my career. I didn’t grow up thinking “Hey, digital marketing, I should do that!” Let’s be real – digital marketing wasn’t even a thing when I was daydreaming as a kid.

No, I grew up wanting to be a teacher.

I remember insisting to friends that I should play the make-believe teacher and they should play the students.

Degrees don’t guarantee direction

I followed my passion and became an education major; however, after one semester I switched to communications, which I thought would offer more opportunities.

I know others that started out as pre-med or biology majors but switched to studying business. I don’t think most people start college knowing exactly what they want to do or exactly how their life will take hold.

Interestingly enough, about 80% of students in the United States change their major at least once, with the average changing it at least three times over the course of their college career according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Even if I had graduated with a degree in education, 32% of college grads said that they had never worked in a field related to their majors.

Preparation and determination are essential to achieve goals, but we also need to understand life doesn’t always care about the plans you make.

Live your dream – now!

We have always been told to “dream big!” and “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”. This motto, plus the stats above, make me think there are probably others out there like me who thought they gave up on their childhood dream.

The millennial generation grew up with parents who told us we could do anything and it was our responsibility to make a permanent mark on the world.

They never told us that we could be just as happy with a job we enjoyed but might not change the world.

These sayings and advice, while well-meaning, aren’t always realistic. They can set you up for disappointment when you aren’t an author, doctor, vet, teacher, or whatever profession you thought you would be.

Instead, I’m suggesting we embrace our realities and find ways to incorporate our passions.

For example, because I love teaching I always volunteer to create new training materials and conduct new hire trainings. I like taking complicated topics and breaking them down into easy-to-understand presentations.

I enjoy helping others and watching them have “lightbulb” moments. My background and passion for education allows me to contribute in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

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So, how do I do this?

Maybe you wanted to write the next great American novel but you find yourself behind an office desk most days.

Why not volunteer as a guest blogger or apply your writing skills by helping companies create compelling content?

Perhaps you always pictured yourself running your own animal shelter. Why not use that passion for animals and organize a supply drive in your office to donate to your favorite shelter?

Still thinking it over? Here are 5 quick tips for inserting your passion into your work:

  1. Get to know yourself. Now is the time to really think about what it is you love to do, the problems you enjoy solving, and the activities that keep you interested for long periods of time.
  2. Look at your work environment through the lens of these passions and think creatively about where you could fit in your dreams.
  3. Make your passions known to your leaders and communicate how your ideas will benefit your current employer or volunteer group.
  4. Take responsibility for your happiness and put a plan together to execute your ideas but know when to ask for help. Don’t wait for your manager to provide a path for you.
  5. Evaluate and repeat. Reflection is critical to your growth. Look back at your contributions and truthfully examine if your projects were well executed, did you help solve a problem, or did you define new opportunities or skills?

Don’t quit your daydream

There is nothing wrong with pursuing your dreams or those big ideas, but while you are fighting, climbing, and working – don’t forget to find what you love and makes you unique.

When you apply that to where you are, you’ll not only feel more fulfilled, but you’ll also find new avenues and opportunities you might never have dreamed of.