top of page

What to expect (or not).

It's an interesting thing, expectations. The way we develop them, believe in them, and hold on to them so tightly only to be disappointed when they aren't fulfilled. It's almost like a secret set of standards that we hold in our minds. We rarely share them and yet, we believe every one we have created is somehow universally understood.


What is the benefit in that?


I can't tell you how many times Janet and I have had this conversation. The one where she asks, "Why do I always expect..." and I respond, "If you stop setting expectations, you will never be disappointed." The first time I said that to her, she looked at me like I was nuts. She wanted to know how it was possible to live with no expectations. I do believe that over the course of our friendship, she has come to see my point of view or at least she understands how it could be beneficial. Has she stopped setting expectations for people or situations? Absolutely not. Because once you have created a standard, it is hard to put it to the side and accept that some people or some situations will not turn out the way you've decided they should. She has, however, become more aware of when her disappointment is a result of an unnecessary expectation she has set and I think that makes it easier to cope with.


So what exactly am I trying to say here?


Are expectations just a set-up for disappointment? Or are they a necessary boundary for understanding what we will and will not tolerate? Are they only beneficial when they are clearly defined? Can you really control how other adults navigate your expectations?


There are, of course, two sides to this where the other end relies heavily on "common sense". Let's not go there today, because common sense is a whole other rollercoaster and it seems the line for it just keeps getting longer.


Expectations.... are tricky. Sometimes they can be a trap and sometimes they are necessary for creating boundaries and emotions and joy. The important thing is to be able to choose your expectations wisely. Because the only person that really gives a shit about your expectations, is you.


Did you read that last part?

THE ONLY PERSON THAT GIVES A SHIT ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS IS YOU.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you can expect the world of the world and if those expectations are not met, only you will feel any type of way about it. Is it unfortunate, sure, but it's also the truth.


Here's my advice (take it, leave it, ponder it, call it foolish - i'm just putting it out there). I tend to lean towards the idea that the only expectations we have control over are the ones we give ourselves. The mindset then becomes, "I expect myself to behave in this way if this person does or does not do x,y, or z."


If you change the way you expect, you change the control you have over the disappointment.


"You can't change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react to it." - Gandhi

This quote is true for everything in life, in my opinion. The only life you have control over, is yours. The moment you begin holding other people to a set of standards that you have built through your own experiences, is the moment the lines blur. Are you upset because someone didn't behave in the way YOU believe is right? Are you upset because YOU believed that something would be a better experience than it actually was?


Guess what? The cause and the reaction have one thing in common. YOU.


The only time you can hold someone to an expectation is when it has been clearly defined and communicated. And once again, that responsibility falls on you ( the creator of the expectations). It's your job to communicate the standards that control your emotional responses. That's the only way to stay in control of your reactions and justify negative ones.

Because if you have clearly communicated what you want, need, or expect, you've allowed the person at the other end the opportunity to be successful. He/she may respond by letting you know that your expectations are too much and that is when you have to decide whether or not you can accept that response. On the other hand, the person at the receiving end of your expectation may have just been given an understanding that he/she didn't have before. Set yourself up for success, set your relationships up for success, and for goodness' sake - use your words.


Does this all make sense?


I suppose what I am trying to say is that, despite what we think, expectations are not universal. Our understanding of human behavior is created based on our own upbringing, culture, and emotional triggers. No two people have the same set. So what right do we have to create a set of standards for human behavior to cater to our own emotional needs, refuse to communicate them, and then pass judgement on people who don't live up to them? What would happen if we traded in our expectations for acceptance? Or even opportunity?


My challenge to you is this. The next time you find yourself feeling disappointed. Ask these questions.


What was my expectation?

Who is in control of it?

Was is valid/fair?

Was it communicated?

What can I do to prevent the same feeling of disappointment in the future?


I am no expert, but I do believe that accountability or the lack of it is an overlooked part of frustration which allows us to sway from introspection. And in my journey of self-discovery, i've spent a lot of time working on becoming more aware of how my behavior serves or sabotages an experience, a relationship, or even a simple interaction.


So here is my final thought (for today) on expectations.


If we only create expectations for ourselves and/or clearly communicate the expectations we have of others, we assign accountability. Now the expectation is concrete and has the opportunity to be successful. Otherwise, it's just another passive idea that we over-analyze and turn into something gross.


Don't be gross, friends.





Ps. If you made it to the bottom of this post, I appreciate you. Please leave me some feedback. Let me know what you think so I can make changes and be better. K thanks, bye!

Comments


bottom of page