The difference between goals and expectations

Do you set expectations for yourself or others? I was thinking about this recently and how our expectations often fail us. I know I can unintentionally set high expectations for things that are never met. And when I actually thought about why this happens I realized something: that I don’t need to set expectations at all because I’m not doing anything to help meet those expectations. In fact, I’m getting rid of all expectations in my life and choosing intentional goals instead. Because when you set purposeful, intentional goals for your life or business, you work towards those goals with action steps to get there. When you set expectations for yourself (or others) you often feel like those should naturally be met with little or no effort, when that isn’t the case at all. Here’s why I’m giving up expectations for goals and what the difference is between the two.


The Oxford dictionary definition of expectation is a strong belief that something will happen or be the case. To me, that means that we think something will just happen. That we won’t have to do much to make it happen but we assume that it will happen. When we set expectations, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment more often than not. That’s not to say that great things won’t happen to us, or that we will receive blessings we’ve prayed for or hoped for without having to work towards those things. But if we approach it differently, without expecting and assuming that it will just happen, we will be that much more joyful and appreciative when it does.

I’ve also found that most times when I set expectations for something or someone, I am doing so without even realizing it. And therefore, I’m setting unrealistic expectations because I’m not putting the thought into it that it deserves.


I’ve talked a lot about what intentional goals are and how to set them. The biggest difference between goals and expectations is that goals are meant to be something that you work towards. They are generally something you’re passionate about and something you genuinely want to achieve in your life or business. You don’t just expect this thing to happen, but you’re willing to work for it. The Oxford dictionary definition of a goal is the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result. It’s the destination at the end of a journey. In this case, I think journey is a key word, because it takes time and effort to reach a goal. It’s typically not an overnight success thing (like most things in life and business).

Why I’m setting goals instead of expectations

After thinking about this over the last few weeks, I’ve decided to try to give up creating expectations in my life. The more I think about it, the more I realize that expectations don’t work as well for living an intentional life. Expectations don’t deliver as much as purposeful goals in my opinion, and in striving to live and intentional life, I want the more fulfilling route. I’m not saying that you should have a certain level of standards in life. I’m saying that expectations can tend to fall flat while goals can help to move you forward with intention.

Instead of expecting things to happen, I’m trusting and praying for God to lead me where I need to go through purposeful goal setting. I’m focusing on what He wants for my life so that I don’t feel disappointed or discouraged when things don’t work out like they’re “supposed” to. I’ve been in a place where I tried to force my own way too often. But now, I want to focus on God’s way without expecting anything specific in return. I know that He will provide me with what I need and that’s all that matters. No more expectations, only intentional, grace-filled goals that I can work towards each day in all areas of my life and business.

My goals

Recap from March:

March was another month that got all flipped upside down once we got into it so some of my goals had to change halfway through to make room for others.

  • Continue staying on top of photo organization: So far so good with this goal. Now I need to start working backwards.
  • Read books, devotional and bible 2 days a week: I’ve honestly chosen true rest over reading the past few weeks because I’ve been so tired. But I know that in this season, this kind of flexibility is ok.
  • Stick to new weekly sabbath plan: I’ve had to work on the weekends more lately than I would like, but I’m getting back to my new Sunday Sabbath routine.
  • Celebrate Logan’s 3rd birthday: It was such a joyous celebration and he had a great day!
  • Switch email marketing to ConvertKit: This is part of the reason I had to adjust some of my goals for the month, and work a lot of late nights and weekends, but I finally got it all switched over.
  • Finish free email course: Because of some unforeseen projects that came up during the month, I had to put this one aside for now.

April Goal (yes, just one goal!):

This month I am setting one overlying goal that is exactly what I need in this season. There are many things I need to be working on and big goals that I want to make progress towards. But instead, I feel a gentle pull towards embracing the slow instead of the hustle. Instead of setting a long list of goals this month, I am simply doing this: Praying each day to see what God wants me to see that day and do what God wants me to do.


Do you see a difference in setting goals and creating expectations in your life and business? How do you feel about this concept?

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