I think we have all heard that little phrase “expect not, want not” at some time in our lives. I never really soaked up the meaning of it until the last few years however, when life did not allow me to ignore it any longer. Expectations and demands are so natural to have of life, people, work, yourself… everything. But are they helping or hindering your relationships and your life?
I have a little saying I remind myself of now when I am attached to the outcome of a situation: “expectations are premeditated resentments.” If I expect that a friend will never gossip about me, that a co-worker will always do their share, that my husband will never criticize – I have set myself up for some major disappointments. I even see the horrible affects of very high expectations of self. In fact, I think the object of people’s highest expectations is of themselves. I have been guilty of expecting unrealistic things of myself such as being able to work a full time job, go to full time school, have a relationship, have friends, start a business or non-profit or some big project… of course all at the same time… and the list could go on. So what is the harm in expecting a lot from yourself? I see so many clients (especially women) build their list of things they “should” be doing, only to feel like a failure and someone who is unproductive. Their “failure” to be all of the things they expect becomes an excuse to verbally and mentally abuse themselves in the most unkind ways.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a lot out of life. We should, because life is abundantly full of lovely experiences, people, and achievements. Somehow, expectations seem to drive us further from all of the loveliness and closer to misery and bitterness. The expectations of others is pretty much useless because we have absolutely no control over others’ behavior. None. If you don’t like something another person is doing that affects you, by all means share your feelings and stand up for your needs. Do that, knowing that you are being true to yourself – not that they are going to change. Because they very well might not. And they are allowed to. If you don’t like it and cannot be the best version of you around their behavior, remove them from your life. Most of our expectations however, are just that – our own idea of what others ought to be doing. Step away from your judgment for a moment and see the dignity of their own decisions. They may be happy with the way things are.
Expectations of yourself are another beast entirely. You do have some control over yourself and your own behavior, so it is right to focus your attention there. Do not sacrifice joy and gentleness for your high expectations however, because you will find your life disappeared and left only disappointment. Enjoy the moment you have right now and be the best version of self you can be, with no judgment. Before you know it, the world will be at your fingertips. You will have joy in every day and you will be fulfilling the dreams you never knew you had. It may not include some grandios degree or job or superwoman powers, but you will be present and displaying your best version of you – with no expectations. Flow with your life and allow opportunities to unfold naturally instead of planning your life out and creating a wake of resentment when things don’t go the way you wished. Trade your expectations for the day for enjoyment of the gifts life has given you.
What have you been expecting of others? Yourself? Have you created resentments? What is your next move now? Can you accept your day today without any expectations and just simply enjoy the gifts? Start the conversation here or in a message to me at firstname.lastname@example.org