Changing my unrealistic expectations has been the biggest mindset shift I’ve had to make over the past few years.
If you hang around on social media enough, it may start to seem like we’re all out there just changing the world. That everyone is making miracles happen each and every day. Or, that some SLPs were just born to be an SLP… that they’re fueled by a never ending passion for the field (more on this passion thing later in this post).
How many times have you heard a quote like “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” or “When you do what you love, it’s not work anymore”? Do you panic a little inside when you hear things like this? Like you must not love your job enough because those Instagram worthy quotes don’t apply to you? ME TOO, GUYS, ME TOO.
Here’s the problem… those expectations are unrealistic and incredibly detrimental to your professional happiness. People who get up excited to go to work every day (because it’s their PASSION), are the exception to every field, not the rule. Because of this, your expectations need to be realistic or you’ll always feel inadequate, like you’re not doing enough, or that you’re not a “good enough” or “passionate enough” SLP.
Making some critical mindset shifts has significantly increased my professional happiness. Below are some examples of some unrealistic expectations I used to have, and what I now tell myself to keep those expectations in check.
Unrealistic Expectation #1: I should be able to wake up each morning excited to go to work. I should love what I do. ➡️ REALITY: The people that feel this way are not the rule, they are exceptions to the rule. Real work is likely to feel hard. It is okay to not want to get out of bed and go to work – I’ll get in the groove by 9am. These feelings are normal no matter what job I might have.
Unrealistic Expectation #2: I should be able to “fix” my students. I will come up with a creative solution, be a miracle worker, and everyone will thank me. ➡️ REALITY: I can’t always control what happens to my students during the other 23.5 hours of their day. I may not have all the answers. Working with students with significant needs (including tricky behaviors) is emotionally draining work. I may have to try 392 different things before 1 works. Unless I’m able to stay in the same position for a long time or work with the same group of students for many, many years, I may not see the degree of progress I wished I did. Progress can be SLOW. Patience is important.
Unrealistic Expectation #3: I should have enough passion and love for this field to get me through the hard times. If I don’t, I’m probably not cut out to be an SLP. ➡️ REALITY: This field, my students, and my coworkers benefit from having me as an SLP even if my job isn’t my number one priority. I am a good SLP even if I have hard days. I am a good SLP even if my journey doesn’t look like others’. I will never love a job so much that I don’t have hard times, struggles, difficulty, or frustration.
Unrealistic Expectation #4: When I find my dream job, I will love everything about it. REALITY: I may still have cranky coworkers, a boss that doesn’t understand what I do, kids with unsafe/scary behaviors, or no therapy room at my dream job. Some jobs will be more suited for me than others, but my dream job will never be perfect.
Unrealistic Expectation #5: I was born to be a speech-language pathologist and help kids. REALITY: Being an SLP is my job. Even if it’s my passion right now, it may not be forever. Thinking I’m “born” to do something puts unnecessary pressure on myself.
Right now, pause and think of 3 or more unrealistic expectations that you have about your job. Are they helping or hurting you? How can you change your expectations so that your work is more fulfilling and fun?
And don’t let this paint a bleak picture for you. Your work still really matters. Every life is special and you touch a lot of lives. The real joy in our jobs is giving. Often, for me, just learning something new (e.g., taking a course on speechpathology.com, reading a blog post) provides me with the job satisfaction, control, and growth I crave. And if you don’t want to focus a significant amount of time outside of work getting better at your job? That’s okay too. You do you.
It’s important to remember that almost everybody has these thoughts. Feeling like you’re not doing enough or that you could be doing more is a common issue SLPs face. You’re not alone.
When I’m feeling down about the realities of my job, I lean on gratitude. I am so thankful I don’t have to sit behind a desk all day. I’m so thankful I get to interact with such a diverse group of humans every day. I am so thankful that the work I do matters.
I hope this serves as a bit of a mindset shift and allows you to have more realistic expectations for yourself and your work. Reframing my thoughts by focusing on what is actually in my control and on gratitude has significantly impacted my professional happiness. I hope it helps you in the same way!
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