We all have expectations and we have all been let down on our expectations either by ourselves or someone else. We have also let someone else down on their expectation at some point or the other. Yet we continue to have expectations, of ourselves and others and continue to be let down. Why?
In this information age of instant access to curated highlights into people’s lives, do we expect too much from ourselves and people around us?
Expectations ultimately lead to disappointments more often than not. Most of the heartache in life is caused due to unfulfilled expectations yet most of our expectations are internal and quite often not accurately communicated either with ourselves or someone else.
These unsaid expectations are the worst. They unreasonably assume that we have the same understanding and viewpoint as another person (friend, child, spouse, colleague) and they will act or respond in ways which will be aligned with our interpretation of the world. Is that a fair assumption? Is that a fair responsibility we impose on someone without actually consulting them and having their consent?
And then we have the audacity to be upset and feel let down when that expectation is not met. When the other person’s behaviour is not in line with how we expected it to be. It is somehow their fault – almost exclusively?
Without realisation and a moment of reflection, we move on to have yet another expectation from yet another person or, even worse, the same person.
So let me ask you this, do you meet all of your own expectations of yourself?
- Did you stick to that diet you promised yourself you would?
- Did you wake up early and go to the gym like you decided you would?
- Did you remain calm when your friend/child/spouse upset you?
- Did you refrain from gossip at that gathering like you decide you would?
Now is it fair to say that if you, after making any of these commitments to yourself and internally discussing them, failed to see them to fruition – why must you be upset when others don’t meet your expectations?
Put another way, if you cannot meet your own expectations, why do you hold expectations from others? And do you have any right to be upset if they don’t meet those expectations?
We feel so bad when someone doesn’t act on our expectations yet we let ourselves down all the time. Once we fulfil all of our own expectations only then we can have the basis to expect something from others.
Here is a remedy to this notorious little issue that I have learnt from Steve Chandler.
The first and the most obvious (yet not always actioned) thing to do is to communicate your expectations, whether they are to yourself or to another person. You say it out loud and have a clear understanding of what it actually is that you expect to happen/to be done.
Assuming the other person (or yourself) accepts and agrees, this turns an expectation into an agreement. It is an actionable item that you have agreed upon either internally or externally.
- Absolves the ambiguity.
- Gets rid of unsaid expectations.
- Gets rid of blame and resentment.
- Removes self-judgment, misunderstanding, frustration and anger.
You’ll never be able to live up to the endless stream of expectations you have for yourself, but if you want to stay out of the land of judgment, you can create specific agreements with yourself: to show up, to take the small actions, to be present, to make that phone call, to shut off your phone at dinner.
Agreements have the potential to change the way you operate and transform your life. Take the time to reflect and create meaningful agreements with yourself and others. Be patient and don’t expect things to change overnight.
In life, have agreements NOT expectations.