In this week’s spotlight I wish to draw your attention to unrealistic expectations. I have enjoyed recent opportunities to visit with some people of the younger generation about a variety of matters, ranging from apparel fashions to personal responsibility. There is one conclusion that I can absolutely forward, and that is: the media largely informs their ideas and attitudes, and that definitely includes their entertainment.
Free or Unrealistic
There are many unrealistic expectations among most people, not just our younger generation. Some of these expectations may not truly be ‘unrealistic,’ and yet, often they are more utopian than pragmatic in the larger picture of everything. Take for example the idea that education should be free. Education has never really been free. My two sons went to private school, something that cost our family approximately twelve-thousand each per year. We were fortunate that we were able to make this choice. Not only that, all the while they were in private school, I paid property taxes dedicated to the local school district in excess of $1000 annually. The old saying, there is no such thing as a free lunch is as true today as ever!
Now I totally agree that our current system is way out of whack by way of the average educational ROI. When you consider that many who graduate with a Bachelors degree face these numbers: “Americans owe over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. In fact, the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from last year.” 1
The problem is obvious, very many of these graduates end up with this debt for much longer than they might think. According to U.S. News, “The standard repayment plan for federal student loans puts borrowers on a 10-year track to pay off their debt, but research has shown the average bachelor’s degree holder takes 21 years to pay off his or her loans. Under federal income-based repayment options, remaining debt is forgiven after 20 years.” 2
Add in the fact that many of these students end up working for far less than they expect. For example, the 2016 numbers indicate that grads in communication, education, social science, and humanities earn some $40k on average per year. So how realistic is it to think that college will become free in the near future?
Think about a few other unrealistic expectations such as life should be fair, everyone should like me, I deserve everything, I’m entitled by virtue of who I am, opportunities will fall into my lap, people should agree with me, anger is justified and so is getting even, I deserve happiness, a good marriage should be easy, everyone is a winner, things will make me happy, etc., etc.
I wish I could say that most of these things are realistic but we all know the facts speak otherwise. I think it is incumbent upon each of us to field these unrealistic perspectives and help our young people get a more informed grasp on what life truly holds for them. Now that’s not to say that we should discourage them—no, to the contrary. We want to prepare them well to succeed and that’s why Ravinder and I raised our boys on InnerTalk. We also definitely want to encourage and support their ambitions and goals, but helping them see these in the light of a realistic perspective will prove to be far more rewarding to all concerned. When they win—they will have won something of value. When they marry, they’ll understand that there are good times and bad times but together both times cement a much more endearing relationship. And when they don’t quite make that goal, their disappointment will be much less devastating. As Dr. Selena C. Snow puts it, “Unrealistic expectations are potentially damaging because they set us and others up for failure. When we or someone else naturally falls short, we draw false conclusions, feel negative feelings and act in negative ways.” 3
As always, thanks for the read and I’d love your thoughts on this one.
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusions
- Staff. 2017. “A Look at the Shocking Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2017.” Student Loan Hero.
- Bidwell, A. 2014. “Student Loan Expectations: Myth vs. Reality.” US News and World Report.
- Tartakovsky, M. “How to Relinquish Unrealistic Expectations.” Psych Central.