What do you expect in life? What do you expect from your family? Your friends? Your work? Yourself?
A dear friend of mine told me years ago, ‘your expectations will be your greatest source of disappointment’. Boy, was he right.
Some expectations are healthy and honour the contours of life, while others can lock us down in old patterns of belief and resistance that can have the ability to shrink and discount our experiences. Having a set of notions and ideas about how things will unfold can be helpful in allowing us to plan and consider our actions as we ponder the alternatives in moving forward in this situation or in life. But, if we get locked into an idea or a rigid belief on how things and people must react, there’s no room to navigate and it can cost us our peace of mind.
As humans, most of us have some fundamental societal expectations that tend to serve us all well. Some of these include expecting that:
- Making eye contact and saying hello would elicit the same response back
- Holding a door for someone to enter a building would be responded to with a thank you
- In a disagreement with someone, civility and kindness would rule the exchange
- Someone asks for help, if we are able, we do
- Seeing injustice or crime, we would report it (if possible)
- Kindnesses we do are reciprocated with kindness
We learn our expectations of ourselves and others based on several things including past experiences, our families, our friends, society and our belief systems. Through these processes, we establish filters. These lenses we now use to view the world, tend to condition us to expect certain things from certain people in certain situations based on those expectations.
We like certainty. When things don’t align as we expect, we are left feeling confused, left out, angry, etc and wondering what just happened. Our desire for that certainty has been shaken and we may feel insecure and vulnerable in the ‘not knowing’. This can usually lead to stress and anxiety.
In life, we must learn that not everyone will act as we expect them to and not every situation will give us what we have come to rely upon. Everything and everyone changes.
I work everyday to shift my hardened expectations into more fluid expectancy, where I can back up, slow down, see and feel what is actually happening to gain a greater perspective. In remaining connected to my heart, I can stay grounded and authentic but not rigid in my response.
It is an on-going process!
How about you? I’d love to hear how do you lovingly work with so many expectations of yourself and others in your life?