Change your life but don’t forget your expectations

By David Penney

Trying to make the best out of a difficult situation is very much part of the human psyche.

Indeed, it is a fundamental part of our armoury as we navigate the trials and tribulations of life.

The truth is that very few people will go through life without facing struggles – it’s just not how the world is designed – but there is no doubt that events of the past couple of years has certainly added an additional level of challenge that have needed to be overcome.

As we watch the latest horror unfold in Ukraine on our TV screens and steel ourselves for the potential long-term ramifications of Putin’s aggression, it is sometimes easy to forget that the world remains in a pandemic.

However, with the news around infections and more importantly, hospitalisations, continuing to improve and restrictions on our lives all but lifted in the UK, we will undoubtedly soon be able to talk of the pandemic is the past tense, be it in hushed tones.

As such, we can now look back at the pandemic and begin to try and assess the impact it has had on our society and whether the raft of speculation about its transformational impact on how we live our lives has come to pass.

What is for certain is that from a lived experience, the pandemic is like nothing any of us has ever been through before. 

From lockdowns to furloughs, face masks to hand sanitizer, the experience of the last two years has been completely unique and will be remembered as a major event in the existence of the human race when the history of the 21st century comes to be written.

However, the experience of the pandemic was of course more than just a series of things that we had to do, it was also a moment in time that had a major impact on how we feel.

We mustn’t forget that for a significant period of the last two years, the pandemic was very much a story about life and death – it still is although thankfully on a considerably lesser scale than during the bleakest days of the last two years.

This changes people. It makes people question their priorities and examine what is really important and the result of this has been one of the most dramatic shifts in modern times in terms of how people work.

For instance, the rise of Covid since the beginning of 2020 has been mirrored by a wave of entrepreneurialism with an almost unprecedented number of new businesses established.

Each business will tell its own story as to the motivation behind it but at the heart of this significant increase (between 15 and 20% higher than an average year) will be an over-riding desire by many to recapture the work life balance that many were given a small and predominantly positive taster of during the first lockdown. 

In general terms this is something that should be celebrated. Taking decisive action to spend more time doing the things that are important in this short life we have all been blessed with certainly makes a lot of sense.

However, while we will look back at the reassessment of our lifestyles as one of the positives to have come from the pandemic, it will also be important to accept that as our reality changes, so must our expectations.  

That is not to say that we should lower them – far from it in fact. Expectations are a crucial part of our belief system and are fundamental in enabling us to stay focused on achieving our goals. 

But it was author Jonathan Lockwood Huie who said that “a wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect” and so while embracing positive change in our lives, it is also important to understand the associated quid pro quo. 

Just as the light fluttering of butterfly wings may cause unpredictable meteorological consequences, so it is also true that the changing of one integral thing can have non-linear impacts across that complex system we call life.

None of us can ever know our future – indeed it is this mystery that is one of life’s most effective motivators – but we risk a lifetime of disappointment if we expect outcomes that the lifestyle we have chosen cannot deliver.

There is nothing more liberating than the realisation that you are the architect of your own happiness and finding that sweet spot is often not about how well things are going in our lives but about whether they are meeting or exceeding our expectations. 

We all know that there are no guarantees in life but having the courage to reassess our expectations when our circumstances change is a hugely important part of ensuring that our lives are about so much more than merely trying to find the best out of a difficult situation. 

The Partner Practice is an Appointed Representative of and represents only St. James's Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) for the purpose of advising solely on the group's wealth management products and services, more details of which are set out on the group's website The 'St. James's Place Partnership' and the title 'Partner' are marketing terms used to describe St. James's Place representatives.

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