The Problem with Being Unrealistic

Human beings reach for the stars. It’s in our nature to be unsatisfied with what we have and constantly strive for something better. The drive to succeed and accomplish great things is what has propelled us from living in cold, dark caves to the fantastic level of technology that we enjoy today. There is nothing inherently wrong with being unrealistic because most of the things we have today wouldn’t be possible if someone at some point hadn’t decided to follow their dreams in the face of overwhelming evidence that it wouldn’t work out.

This is the double-edged sword when it comes to being realistic. Almost all of the time it is in our best interests to weigh what is feasible against what is vaguely possible. Some ideas are just reasonable enough to be within the realm of actually happening, but are so remote that you are virtually guaranteed to be wasting your time and energy on it. Yet if you don’t try then it becomes literally guaranteed. It makes it quite difficult to reach out when you know that you’re very likely to fail at something that could change your life for the better if you succeed or completely ruin it if you fail.

Hope is what causes us to reach out for things that should be beyond our grasp, but hope flies in the face of reality in most cases. There are billions of individual people on the planet, each with their own dreams for the future, and only a very small percentage are able to reach far beyond their means to accomplish something truly great. Most of us forget about that when we start imagining what things might be like if we go after something we want. How many others tried and failed? We don’t like to think about the sheer number of people who are stuck where they are simply because the odds weren’t in their favor.

Of course, how many of them never bothered to try because it seemed so difficult? How much of that number of unsuccessful people is due to the hopelessness that comes from knowing that something is nearly impossible? We are not incentivized to ignore the numbers, our innate desire to play it safe preventing us from going out on a limb for that choice piece of fruit. Better to live with the slightly under ripe fruit than to dangle precariously reaching for the perfectly sweet treat.

Like most things in our life, the question of being unreasonable can’t be answered for you. As an individual with your own thoughts and desires, it is only you who can determine where you draw the line between what is realistic and what is beyond your reach. You are the one who will have to put the effort into whatever it is you’re trying to do, hopefully with the support of others, but ultimately the outcome rests heavily on your shoulders. And then even if you do everything right, you can still fail. That is the risk.

For most people, this thought process will seem far outside anything they have to worry about, focused solely on their job or their family or whatever mundane thing it is that most of us put our effort into. However, we can be unreasonable in a great many things, even the mundane. Perhaps we want a house that is beyond our means, putting ourselves into more debt than we can afford to get it. Our marriage might not be what we wished it were, and we seek attention from another who seems to be offering what we want. The job that provides what we need might be unsatisfying and we walk away in the hope that we can find something more suitable.

All of these things can be viewed as unreasonable if we are not in the proper position to do anything about it. It all comes down to learning to be satisfied with what you have while holding on to the hope that things can still get better. It is a tightrope of mental focus that allows us to reach some level of satisfaction in our lives, not throwing away what we have in pursuit of something else, but still continuing down the path of improvement even if it never happens. Hope is a good thing; expectations are not.

What do you think about unreasonable expectations? Do you have things in your life that you want to change that seem impossible? Are you sabotaging yourself in pursuit of those things, or have you learned to accept where you are? Can you hold out hope for the future while still being content with where you are right now? It seems like a huge contradiction, but if we want to keep moving forward without flying too close to the sun, we have to learn to find that feeling of acceptance and patience, waiting for a future that may never come.

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