Expectations Set You Up For Disappointment
I’ve discovered that I have much more peace in my life when I manage my expectations. Less disappointment, less frustration, less worry, less anger. An expectation is: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. What is missing from this definition is the implicit idea that this something should happen because our belief includes this presumption that this is “how life/people/things are supposed to work”.
For instance, you may believe that kids should help around the house, do what they’re told and respect your authority. Or, you may believe that your ex should be responsible, be a good father and try and get along for the sake of the kids. Friends should return phone calls in a timely manner, neighbors should be friendly and cooperative, etc. We approach life with a fixed idea of how people and things should be but our beliefs might conflict with reality.
So what happens when our expectations aren’t met? For each of us it’s different—some may get angry, others disappointed and dejected. Some may form new beliefs that are equally flawed: my kids are spoiled and lazy, my ex is a complete loser, this friend can’t be trusted. As a result, life becomes more uncomfortable because now it includes negative expectations. You expect your ex to be a jerk so you’re angry before he opens his mouth. You expect your teenagers to resist your requests so you’re ready to do battle most of the time. You expect to be criticized at work so you’re immediately defensive when your boss asks to speak to you.
By dropping, or just lowering, our expectations we gain emotional freedom because we are not counting on people/events/situations to be a particular way which is a set-up for disappointment or anger. We may prefer that people and things be a certain way, but we are not depending on it, nor are we indulging in “all or nothing thinking” (“this didn’t work out which means it will never work out”). Instead we can roll with life and react to the present circumstance as it is. The future is still unknown—we don’t frame it negatively or unrealistically—rather we welcome it with peace and confidence. This doesn’t mean that we don’t plan, set goals or trust that people will do what they say, but we don’t get thrown off when things don’t turn out as we’d like. Instead, we re-calibrate and determine our next move unencumbered by the emotional weight of unmet expectations.