Setting Realistic Expectations
by Cindy Ventrice

Faced with a challenging situation who best maintains their motivation? Is it the optimist, the pessimist or the realist?

The Optimist

Optimists have lots of energy and enthusiasm at the beginning of any project. It is easy for optimists to get started because when they scan the horizon they see nothing but clear sailing. Eventually, though, they are surprised by rough water. Optimists are usually unprepared for unexpected storms.

Lending officers see this approach from the majority of business startups looking for funding. They know that extreme optimism isn't a wise long-term approach to maintaining motivation. Lenders insist on rigorous business plans because they know that getting motivated isn't enough.

The Pessimist

Pessimists rarely get surprised by unexpected obstacles. They know there are storms on the horizon. In fact, they see a hurricane in every fluffy cloud. While this strategy can mean that they prepare for every possibility, it is also likely that they will never leave the dock.

Pessimists have great ideas that never leave the planning stage. They see failure around every corner. Pessimists can't maintain their motivation. They never had it to begin with!

Setting Realistic Expectations

If you want to get and stay motivated set realistic expectations. They allow you to be prepared without getting discouraged. How do you set realistic expectations? Evaluate two things: your previous experiences and current conditions.

Consider the expectations of a job seeker who has just begun looking for work for the first time in four years. She has great contacts and resources, and four years ago she landed a job in two weeks. Prior experience alone tells her that she can expect to find a job quickly with few obstacles to getting the job she really wants. A quick look at current job conditions tells a different story. Demand for workers in her field is limited right now. The time it takes her to land employment will probably be significantly longer than it was four years ago.

Previous experience and current conditions, together they help us set realistic expectations. Whether you are tackling new job responsibilities or trying to maintain productivity during a major change initiative, using what you know about current conditions and your previous experiences can help you create an action plan that will serve you well and keep you motivated!

Cindy Ventrice is a management consultant, speaker, and workshop leader with nearly 20 years of experience. She focuses exclusively on helping organizations improve operations, products, and services by improving workplace relationships and employee morale. Her new book, Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works, is available through any bookseller. You can contact Cindy at

Make Their Day!
Employee Recognition That Works

by Cindy Ventrice,
Berrett-Koehler Publishers,
April 2003

Many more articles in Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2003 by Cindy Ventrice. All rights reserved.

Current Issue - Archives - CEO Links - News - Conferences - Recommended Reading