As humans, we are doomed to fall prey to our expectations. We do it all the time. Expectations are what drives us forward, but ironically, they are also the number one reason for increased stress and a shorter life span.
See, the thing about expectations is that they are almost always too high, to happen all at once. When reality doesn't match our expectations, we feel down and depressed. Even if, by way of a miracle, an expectation does come true, our brains immediately write it off as "done" or "too easy" and set a newer, higher goal. There isn't a single moment of content and engaging what we've got. The brain acknowledges the fact, readjusts the goals, and suddenly, we are down and depressed again, for not being to meet our new, even more ambitious targets.
Major improvements rarely happen out of nowhere. They are the result of hundreds or thousands of tiny changes. When looked at directly, each of those changes might seem negligible. In the grand scheme of things though, it builds up on the foundation of all the minor improvements that have happened before it. This is the big revelation about improvements. When looked at a larger scale, they appear to be exponential. What was once impossible becomes easier and easier to achieve. Best of all without setting once's expectations on a route to disappointment, but focusing on the smallest amount of improvement one can achieve from one day to the next.
I call this the "1% Journal", and it is incredibly simple. Start a journal. At the beginning of each day, look at the records in this journal and write down what you think would make you 1% better that day. It could be literally anything from a precise one (read 3 more pages than yesterday), to more abstract one (play with the kids). As long as you think it would give you a 1% boost that day', it's perfect. At the end of the day, simply write down the actual reason for that day's improvement. Even if it is not the one you set out with, it does not matter. Similar to a gratitude journal, the key here is to consistently make yourself search for tiny doses of improvement, without galling in the big expectations trap.
For those who think that 1% improvement each day is too small, consider this: 1% accumulated over just 70 days is equal to:
1.01 ^ 70 = 2.007...
This means literally being twice as good at anything in just 70 days! And all that with no prior expectations. Think about how much you can improve in a year, by just following this idea consistently.
The idea is not mine, and I owe a lot to both James Clear and Mark Manson, whose books I am linking to down below. Disclaimer: these are affiliate Amazon links. Each of these books is a must-have gem, and buying it will support my humble writing efforts as well.