How to Break Free From Our Expectations

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Dr. Lisa Coyne discusses the relationship between mental wellness and expectations, shares tips on how to break free from the burden of unrealistic expectations, and answers questions about managing expectations.

Whether you’re thumbing through a perfectly curated social media feed or receiving a rejection letter from your dream job, it can be easy to be disappointed when things don’t go according to plan. While all of us hold expectations, managing what is realistic and feasible can be challenging.

Can adjusting our expectations be the key to a happier life? And if so, how do we get started on changing our outlook?

This content is also available in Spanish.

Audience Questions

Dr. Coyne answered questions, including:

  • How do we break the cycles of perfectionism, guilt, and shame around expectations?
  • Do you have any advice about acceptance when we find ourselves in unexpected moments?
  • What advice would you have about managing expectations for someone about to graduate and look for a job?
  • There are many stressors related to finding work, especially right now with so many people looking. How do we manage the expectations of our families and friends who think that not finding a job is a sign of a lack of effort?
  • How can we help younger people who are afraid to explore different career paths because of the expectations of their parents?
  • Many people are extremely stressed right now. Would you talk about the difference between helpful and harmful levels of stress?
  • We all plan for life to get back to normal. Is this healthy? Or is now the time to admit to ourselves that life might never be the same again, and it’s time to consider setting new goals and expectations?
  • What tips do you have for dealing with setting exceptionally high expectations and then being disappointed in ourselves? How do we stop this cycle?
  • As someone who isn’t a physically small person, I often feel as if people look at me as being weak or as someone who has unhealthy habits. How do I manage the expectation of being thin and the negative thoughts I think that others have of me?
  • Regarding school, children with learning disabilities are falling behind right now and getting even further behind other children their age. How can parents help accept this fact and stay hopeful?
  • My dad, while mentally healthy, has been having a lot of physical health struggles, which aren’t common for someone his age. How can we help a loved one accept physical limitations?
  • I’m afraid that many older people are more isolated than ever. How can we help older people navigate the limited amount of social interaction they have right now?
  • How can we adjust future expectations of kids being schooled remotely right now?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


You may find this additional information helpful:

About Dr. Coyne

Lisa W. Coyne, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, part-time, at Harvard Medical School, and is a senior clinical consultant at the Child and Adolescent OCD Institute (OCDI Jr.) at McLean Hospital.

Dr. Coyne has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters on anxiety, OCD, and parenting. She is the author of “The Joy of Parenting: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Effective Parenting in the Early Years,” a book for parents of young children.

Recent books by Dr. Coyne:

Learn more about Dr. Coyne.

More Webinars

It’s important to think about ways to manage your mental health. McLean is committed to providing mental health and self-care resources for all who may need them. You and your family may find these strategies from McLean experts helpful to feel mentally balanced in your everyday lives.

Sign up now for the next webinar in our Mental Health Webinar Series.