Are expectations good or bad? Well, it all depends on how you see them.
For some people, expectations are good, as they help them and others to excel and focus on achieving goals. But expectations can also be negative, if they stop us doing things that we want to do or push us down a route we don’t want to go down.
Expectations go in three directions: we have expectations of ourselves, other people's expectations of us and finally, the expectations we have of other people.
What is really interesting is the expectations we have of others, because what we are really doing is expecting other people to “live up to” a standard that we have created in our own mind: a standard that they almost certainly don’t even know about.
Expectations can influence behaviours and they are a powerful force that can act in a positive way, or they can lead to a great deal of disappointment, conflict and also confusion.
By understanding the mechanics of how expectations work, and identifying them, you can really make some fast changes in your life, and feel a lot freer.
Firstly, an expectation is simply an idea or a belief. These beliefs are usually based on the ‘programs’ that underpin our actions. Often we learnt them as kids, and they shape our day to day rules of engagement – read my last post BLUEPRINTS for more information.
Whether they come from us or from others, all expectations start with a belief at a subconscious level. We have many expectations about people, situations and places based on our blueprints, and if the expectation matches what we have within, we feel good. If it doesn’t, we feel disappointed.
Another thing that we learnt from the ‘education’ that we received as children is to judge and label certain things as good, bad, right and wrong, and so, we naturally started to ‘judge’ and ‘label’ ourselves (and others).
So if our parents told us that certain types of manners were bad, fast-forward to the present time and the first thing we do (almost inevitably) is to judge others when they do things differently.
When we start a new relationship, we have expectations about how our new partners should be. Is it really fair that we think that he or she should do things as we expect them to be done, and be disappointed, or even angry, when they are not?
In the workplace, we may have expectations about how others should behave toward us, and be surprised when they behave differently. Again, we all have different expectations and so why do we think our expectations are the correct and reasonable ones?
In the same way that we have expectations of others, others have expectations of us, and so, we all end up expecting things from each other.
Tricky isn’t it!
Because these beliefs (expectations) are so imbedded in our psyche, we rarely stop to question them.
Here is what I have learnt. What you expect that you should do or have, doesn’t exist: it is an idea that you carry with you. And of course the same applies to everyone else.
Next time you find yourself feeling disappointed because something you expected didn’t happen, try to understand where that thought is coming from. Analyse whether it is something you really want or need, or are you simply repeating an expectation that has been drummed into you.
Similarly, do your expectations of yourself encourage and liberate you or do they hold you to a standard that you don’t want or like? Are they even YOUR expectations, or are they someone else's?
If you can get to the foundation of your expectation, you can either use it to your advantage, if it truly serves you, or discard it. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Why not make a conscious effort not to be disappointed when things don’t turn out as you expected. After all an expectation is something we made up in our mind – it was never real in the first place! So does it make sense to expect that they will always come true?
Try to keep this in mind particularly if you feel someone has “let you down” or done something “wrong”. Are you judging them based on your expectations? And if you are, ask yourself if it is really fair of you to “write the rules” for others.
I suggest letting go of your expectations and seeing what happens when you give yourself that freedom.
Here’s to the unexpected!