Today, I want to share a story with you. I expect it to provide you a little insight into my mind, motivation, and vision, as well as teach you the difference between internal and external expectations.
I’ve spent my last two summers in Seattle working for Boeing. I worked as an industrial engineer (IE) in fabrication and an IE on 777 Final Assembly. (Yep, those are the big boys.)
Since my first internship ended in August of 2011, I knew that I would have a job offer with Boeing when I graduated, so long as I continued to do the work that was expected of me. This served as a nice safety net going back to school my senior year knowing that I had an awesome job opportunity waiting for me the following spring.
School was in full swing, and before I knew it, the New Year rolled around. We were planning our big re-launch for Undergrad Success. Our company was growing and so was my anxiety to graduate. Since February, I’ve been quietly battling this anxiety inside me. I didn’t quite know why I was feeling this way. I had an awesome job waiting for me; yet, my brain was at war with itself. My subconscious was battling my conscious and I didn’t know who was winning. Hell, I didn’t even know why the fight had started.
I remember sitting in Ancora Coffee with Jessica, a little shop just off the capitol square in Madison. We were discussing plans for Undergrad Success and what was ahead as I was preparing to start a new life in Seattle. Without much thinking, I had picked up my phone and was emailing my good friend Gavin with a proposition. Check out the snippet below.
The email continued with specifics, but you get the gist.
What was I doing? Honestly, I didn’t really know. Gavin and I are close, but I really didn’t know how he was going to react. Was I overstepping boundaries? Was I out of line?
Fast forward 3 weeks and I’m sitting on my living room couch telling my parents that I got some girl pregnant I’ve decided to reject my job offer with Boeing and move to San Diego to work part-time with Gavin, whilst also pursuing my entrepreneurship endeavors full-time. Not only did this worry my family but it worried me. I kept getting the shivers…which is also happening as a I write this…because I knew then what I know now: that what I’m doing with Jessica, Rim, Kate and Gavin is on the cusp of something awesome.
I knew that at that point, there was no turning back. I knew that this was the path I was supposed to take. See, I had spent a majority of that afternoon texting my friends and informing them of my plans. I received an outpouring of support receiving responses from, “This is the greatest text I’ve gotten all week,” to “You have no idea how long I’ve expected to get this text,” and “If anybody was going to do it, I knew it’d be you.”
Having these conversations finally allowed me to see where the anxiety had been coming from. It wasn’t from a fear of graduation. It didn’t stem from being unsure about Boeing. It was my internal expectations battling the external expectations others have of me.
What’s the difference?
Internal expectations are those you’ve placed on yourself. For example, I expect myself to be the best I can be. I have a vision of what success looks like in my mind, and I expect that nearly all of the decisions I make align with that vision. To me, success doesn’t look like a 40-hr per week job helping a Fortune 500 company build airplanes…as much as I love seeing them.
External expectations are those placed on you by others. Similar example: that same 40-hr per week job may look like success to many people. Hell, that’s the “point” of college right? Earn a degree. Get a job. Make good money.
Well, I decided this wasn’t for me. And while these expectations seem to be related, they are entirely different both in the origin of the expectation and my perception of the expectation. With my internal expectation, it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks of my vision. If I’m not making decisions that align with it, I’m failing to meet my self-imposed expectations.
Similar cases can be made with significant others or bosses. Your boss’ expectations of you can (and should) only matter if they line up with the expectations you have of yourself to be performing that job. If that job isn’t necessary to you fulfilling your internal expectations, then quit. Find a job that fits your reality. The same goes for your boyfriend or girlfriend. If his or her expectations of you don’t fit the expectations you have of that relationship, then you need to address this or break up with them.
All of this to say: accepting external expectations as your reality encourages mediocrity in your life. With this acceptance, come low, internal expectations to do something truly awesome and inspiring, while the external expectations for us to conform to society’s standards skyrocket. I knew that if I decided to go to Boeing, I would be settling for a job I didn’t really want. This isn’t to say it isn’t a great job…it just isn’t for me.
If you’re struggling to find balance in your life or something just feels…a little off…get back to your roots. This is a time for you to reflect and think about what your motivations are. Do you have a vision of where you’d like to be in a year? 5 years? 10 years? Are you making daily efforts to get there?
Your vision is sure to differ from mine, so it’s your job to make that call. But whatever it is, align your expectations and wave goodbye to the anxiety.