Expectations are a constant in our lives. We all have expectations about how things are going to happen both on a large scale and on a small scale. Though they are constantly here, most of us wander through our lives without taking a close look at our expectations or being mindful of them on a regular basis and this is a predominant cause of strife and sadness in our lives.
Look at it this way; if you are headed out to meet up with friends, you have already built a picture in your mind of what is going to happen and who all is going to be there. You have an expectation of the evening. Now, when you get to the meeting spot, you find that most of the people you expected to be there aren’t and there is a group of strangers that you are joining for bird watching. Even if you enjoy bird watching, this isn’t the situation that you thought you would be in and that creates contradiction inside us. Some of us are very good at rolling with these kinds of changes, but most people end up feeling disappointed, or slighter, or a myriad of other negative emotions when something like this happens. If we really look at it, we can see that the most likely reason for this downward emotional swing is that our expectation and the reality did not match closely enough.
This happens on a constant basis in life and is a key source of pain and strife in relationships. As both people move through the relationship, they have expectations of what the other person will be or do and when their expectation are different then the reality, they become hurt and angry over the situation. The problem is that we allow these expectations to be created on autopilot without ever really looking at them. It is this habit that turns expectations from a source of excitement for us into a source of pain. When we just let our subconscious mind create our expectations without analyzing them or communicating about them, we steer ourselves into a trap and it creates pain and strife in our life as our expectations are constantly disappointed.
Instead, we can take over our expectations and make them actively. This takes two steps. The first step is internal and is a matter of being mindful of when we are creating expectations and what those expectations are. This will give us a handle on what we are actually looking for as well as allow us to apply our forebrain to them so that they become realistic. It is much more likely that when you visit your parents around the holidays that you are going to have a nice dinner and conversation then that they are going to give you a brand new car. Your forebrain can realize that and adjust your expectations to match and avoid any pain from an unrealized expectation. The second, and most important, step is to communicate. When your expectations involve the actions of another person, it is unfair to them and damaging to us to not communicate those expectations with the other person. If we do create them without communication, we are angry at the other person for taking us bird watching when we expected a day on the town with friends. Chance are that the expectation was never set by either party, but now you are in a bad mood and they are frustrated because you aren’t engage in the outing with them. Instead, be clear with the people in your life about your expectations and ask them to be clear with you. That way you can both create a shared expectation that will come to fruition rather than both having private expectations that don’t happen and create strife.
Today, take the time to analyze the expectations you have for the rest of your day and get your forebrain involved. Are those expectations likely or realistic? If not, can you modify either your actions today to fulfill the expectation you have or modify the expectation to be more in line with the likely outcome? Finally, if those expectations involve a planned encounter with another person, touch base with them and find out their expectations for the encounter and share yours. Come to shared expectations so that you can both feel fulfilled once everything is said and done.
Share your experience with being cognizant of your expectation below in the comments!