Do you feel stressed out? I know I do. Most people I know feel that way. Much of this is from society’s rising expectations of us.
We can reduce the effect of these external forces. It takes clear thinking and a solid strategy.
I learned some solutions from Richard A. Swenson’s book, “The Overload Syndrome.” His book inspired this post.
1. Limits on Rising Expectations with Knowledge
It is difficult for super-achieving physicians to accept that we have limits. We need to become familiar with them and honor them. Despite our programming, we are not superheroes.
You will never know everything in the Prescribers’ Digital Reference (formerly, Physicians’ Desk Reference, PDR). Let alone the contents of the thousands of new journal articles.
No matter how much you study or how smart you are.
We need to realize there is a limit to how much we can do in a day and a limit to the capacity of our knowledge and ability.
2. Curb Rising Expectations with Productivity
Is more always better? Expectations of increasing success, productivity, and prosperity cause chronic frustration and fatigue.
We cannot or should not increase our wRVU performance every single year.
3. “Enough” Halts Rising Expectations
The common idea of enough is “more than we have now.” But, instead, we can define enough as “what we have now.”
Our expectation will be fulfilled. The less you want, the richer you are. If we can focus on needs rather than wants, we will find it easier to reach “enough.”
Keep your spending increases small and invest. Building wealth is simple, but not easy.
4. Compare to Those Less Fortunate
Some of us in the upper-middle-class and upper-class associate with only our peers.
They have beautiful spacious homes. Swimming pools and country club memberships are part of the rising expectations.
As are international flights for vacations. Comparisons are very important.
Who Are Your Peers?
The opinions of others will affect your own view of wealth and success.
My private-practice income was in the top 5 to 10% of my field. Yet, I did not feel rich.
Three of my partners owned their own planes, hotels, and houses exceeding 10,000 sq. ft.
Spend time around those in the lower or lower-middle income range. Get to know your patients and staff better.
Volunteer to help the poor. I always feel rich and grateful after volunteering at a food pantry.
5. Competitive Rising Expectations – Be Wary of Winning
Success has a way of increasing expectations. Our accomplishments can become criteria for our self-esteem if we are not careful.
This can lead to a psychological trap. We may feel we are in a race to keep up with rising expectations of achievement.
It is healthy to have high standards and lofty goals but be aware of your thresholds and limitations.
6. Consumer Rising Expectations – Tune Out Ads
Advertisements are nothing more than roads to discontent and need creation. Wage war against them. The first step may be to turn off your “idiot box.”
Advertisers load TV shows up with commercials. Their intentions are to push your subconscious towards increased spending.
Watch expenses on big-ticket items the most.
7. Don’t Obsess Over Fashion
Our assumptions and opinions of others affect our buying habits. They influence our choice of cars, clothes, furniture, carpeting, appliances, and cell phones.
Don’t feel compelled to spend money to keep up with fashion. Use your own judgment and critical thinking skills.
It will save you a fortune. Newer is not always better. Especially with the first round of new technology devices.
Buy based on utility rather than status. You may suffer from fashion mediocrity, but you will save a fortune in the process.
8. Simplify Rising Holiday Expectations
Sometimes I feel that between November and January I am living in one big commercial.
Christmas is now promoted as a buying sport that starts well before Thanksgiving. We spend a fortune on birthdays, engagements, weddings, funerals, and Christmas.
Scale them back 50%. You will not notice any drop in quality of life.
We would enjoy holidays more if they were simpler, less stressful, and less costly.
You don’t need to obsess over expenses or a budget to become rich.
9. Resist Rising Expectations with Housing
The floor plan of new homes far exceeds the space required. I am not advocating for tiny houses. Although that can be a reasonable choice.
No one needs 10,000 sq. ft. – not uncommon among physician houses.
Realtors, neighbors, colleagues, and bankers talk us into McMansions. Some will tell you that because you can afford a bigger mortgage, you should.
Don’t let that argument put you into too much house. Be conscious about spending money in a way that boosts your happiness.
10. Free Others From Rising Expectations
When we put expectations on others they return the favor. This creates reciprocity of high expectations.
When we cut others some slack, they will do the same for us. This is true with administrators, colleagues, friends, and our spouse.
11. Deny Your Children and Yourself
We seem to have a society steeped in entitlement thinking. The world does not owe us a living. We are all in danger of spoiling our children.
The upper-middle class, like physicians, want to share their success with their children. In the end, this can cause more damage than benefit.
Their material expectations are set high. Many expect to start out where their parents ended up. Realize it took decades of hard work and saving to get there.
I worked to create a sense of scarcity and deprivation within my home. I do not want us all to feel rich.
That is part of the reason why I have money diverted into investments from each check. It creates a sense of adequate resources, but not excessive wealth.
We live in a rich nation with advanced technology and luxury everywhere. It is easy for us to get soft.
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Consider denying yourself. Could you skip coffee for a few days and tolerate a headache?
How about a little less sleep for a few days?
Ever try fasting? Could you exercise for an hour a day for the next two weeks?
Could you go outside without a coat?
Of course, you could do these things.
Ancient Idea That Still Works
You can then return to your regular routine. The strength of your character will be palpable. Pride and gratitude will outweigh any sense of deprivation.
Seneca (a stoic 2,000 years ago) advocated for this technique. It still works to improve our sense of well-being.
What about you? Are you stressed about not meeting rising expectations?
How do you fight against that? Do you have tools you could share to improve contentment for others?