Expectations are everywhere aren’t they? We have expectations of ourselves, our partners, children, friends, family, employers, employees, colleagues, situations, events, activities and even our pets. I know my expectation of my 7-month-old kittens is that they go outside to do their business and if they decide not to, I won’t be very happy.
So with the idea of expectations having a rather substantial hold on us and our lives, how do they serve us and why can we feel a sense of disappointment, frustration, hurt, anger and a whole host of other emotions if our expectations are not met?
Let’s look at the first part of that question- how do they serve us? Without expectations of ourselves and others,we would live in a totally disorganised and confusing world were boundaries and rules just wouldn’t matter. The end result would be that we wouldn’t achieve very much which could, in turn,affect every area of our lives. It would be similar to a domino effect. So in essence, they do serve us and serve us well if we are able to communicate our expectations. Maybe the reason why we feel those negative emotions when our expectations aren’t met is the result of us measuring others against our own expectations of ourselves.
Just take a moment to think about the last time someone or something either didn’t live up to the expectations you had or exceeded them. How did it feel? What emotions did it ignite? Positive or negative?
I was thinking back to a particular Valentine’s Day (something I don’t usually take much notice of) and my partner exceeded my expectations with romantic gestures and was incredibly thoughtful. How did this make me feel? Well, totally blown away, to be honest. It was wonderful, I felt special and loved by the actions of someone else who had taken time and energy to do something unexpected. These reactions were positive and in turn made me think about how I could potentially shift my thinking and up my own expectations of myself in certain areas of my life.
Living up to Expectations
On the flip side I have experienced, on more than one occasion a friend not ‘living up to’ my expectations of them. This lead to feeling hurt and disappointed. Unable to verbalise this at the time, meant that a good friendship deteriorated.
So what are the learnings we can take from these experiences?
Expectations we have of others can ultimately be misplaced, unless we are able to communicate them and their meaning and importance to us.
We all have a different take on the world. As the unique and fabulous individuals that we are, we all connect, behave, react and communicate in all sorts of ways. It’s about a level of flexibility and understanding. Just because someone doesn’t have the same expectations as we do, doesn’t mean that they are wrong (or right), just different.
On a personal level, it is about the willingness to communicate. Unless someone knows what you expect, how can they make a choice on how to behave?
Finally, gratitude. Isn’t is a wonderful thing when someone or something really does exceed your expectations? And for that I genuinely believe it serves us to show and feel a level of gratitude.