Goals vs. Expectations: Let’s Talk About It

Often, we set all types of expectations for our life. We make them for ourselves, relationships, and what we think our future should look like. Based on a personal study (which has no research) expectations we set turn out the way we want 1/10 times. In my opinion, we set our expectations too high. This causes us to feel let down and frustrated.

How Do We Avoid Being Let Down?

The simple answer: change your mind-set. Do I think setting expectations is harmful? Maybe, but would if I switch the word expectation to goal. Do you feel a different way now? Do you feel more positive or negative? For myself, I like to set goals instead of expectations.

Goals vs. Expectations

Goal: “The result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.”


Expectation: “The act or state of looking forward or anticipating.”


In comparing these two words I think there is a key word in each definition. The key word for goal is effort and for expectation is anticipating. The word effort translates as hard work to me. Whereas the word anticipate translates as waiting.

To me, a goal is something you work toward. You’re proactively putting in time and hard work to achieve your goal. An expectation seems like a waiting game”to me. Something you hope for, but are not actively trying to change the outcome.

What Does This Have to do with Thru-hiking?

Goal setting is crucial when it comes to a feat like thru-hiking. It’s said often, but thru-hiking is mental, emotional, and physical. Maintaining a healthy mental state throughout your hike is of utmost importance. To do so, I think it is important to set attainable goals and be adaptable.

Goals from hiker to hiker will vary and that is OK. What is important is that you’re setting goals for yourself, not for or by anyone else. Adaptability will help because if one of your goals is walking from Mexico to Canada, you cannot predict the journey along the way.

What Now?

Set goals for yourself if you’re embarking on a thru-hike. Whether you’re leaving in a month, a year, or years down the road, set some goals. Set practical goals and start small. Don’t wait around, be proactive.

Happy trails.

What’s your opinion on goals vs. expectations? Leave a comment below.

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