Temper your expectations


At the start of the new year, many people around the world — including many Trinity students — make resolutions to improve their lives in some way. Many of these resolutions are to improve physical health: To get in shape. To work out. And when students arrived back on campus for the beginning of the spring semester, they were expecting to find a freshly renovated Bell Center, filled to the brim with shiny equipment, abundant floor space and arguably excessive Trinity branding. But alas, the doors on this $14.2 million renovation had yet to open.

When looking at physical resolutions, another comes into mind — losing weight. Frequently, people assume that a failure to lose weight for one week is the end of the resolution. Yet, one week of decline does not a failure make.

One must remember that there are 52 weeks in a year, and that a resolution is not an evaluation of a singular week, but an evaluation of change from January 1 to December 31. When setting goals, the presence of failure cannot be underestimated; if a downturn is not anticipated, unreasonable goals will be crafted and a feeling of defeat will settle in.

A similar moral can be found in the world of finance. Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, the value of the stock market has continued to grow. And just this month, the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed $25,000 for the first time in its history.

But good times are not eternal. The economy is controlled by an invisible hand, and at some point the market will fall, and millions of dollars will be lost. In order to remain safe, investors must assume that some portion of their wealth will simply disappear.

The same principle applies to personal finance. Individual accounts must be managed with a healthy dose of cautiousness, because a crash could come at any time and without the assumption of failure, all could be lost.

And at the start of the year comes the beginning of a new semester. Students across the country settle into a new routine with new classes and new professors. Perhaps the ratings for a highly anticipated class were overinflated. Or maybe the workload for a class was higher than expected. This all comes back to neglecting to set appropriate, reasonable goals that factor in failure.

So how does all of this fit together? We should stay in that class, or continue the trudge to the gym, or continue to invest wisely. Without reasonable and achievable goals, one cannot progress. Tempered expectations are critical, because with expectations that are too high comes a crushing feeling when those expectations are not met.

During my last year of high school, my advisor started pushing us to make SMART goals. SMART, like most things in high school, is an acronym, standing for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. At first, I thought that they were simply a waste of time. Why provide that much information if I’m the only one who is responsible for completing said goal?

But as time has passed, I feel that this is the biggest improvement I have made to my life. By listing these qualifications for every goal I set, I ensure that my goals factor in potential failure, which is, as previously mentioned, critical to success.