One of the hardest lessons to learn (and that unfortunately pesters us until we do) is freeing ourselves from expectations.
It is a difficult lesson because expectations that we place on ourselves, those that we place on others, and even the ones that we’ve been brought up with, our cultural norms, are omnipresent.
How many times have you heard that if you work very hard, you’ll achieve your goals? There is an expectation that if you invest energy in an endeavor, you will be rewarded with your desired outcome. Oftentimes our cultural norms teach us that having expectations is a healthy approach to life.
But, we can all recall far too many instances where either we or someone we know has followed all the rules, put forth the work, and still has not received the anticipated ending.
I’m not pointing this out to devalue the importance of having goals or to threaten motivation, but, rather, to highlight how when we concentrate on expectations instead of the process of working towards the goal, we lose sight of the experience.
When we refuse to be open to the results that follow efforts, we face disappointment if the results don’t align with the expectation that we envisioned. In other words, when we are not open to organic results, we set the stage for deflation.
Sometimes the expectations that we create in our mind, the expectations that we place on ourselves, are unrealistic. Yet, we attach ourselves to those expectations because we convince ourselves that the effort that we invest will only have been worthwhile if we accomplish something grandiose.
When we cling to an expectation, we don’t leave any room to appreciate what we do get. We stunt our growth by dismissing the opportunities that are placed in front of us.
We become so wrapped up in our persistence in forcing our expectation that we pass up the chance to explore the value in what authentically results.
We do not only do this with the expectations that we place on ourselves, but we do it with the expectations that we place on others as well.
When we don’t relinquish ourselves of those expectations that we place on others it is just as detrimental.
The minute that we construe expectations when relating to others is the moment that we create an unhealthy relationship.
When we expect another person to act, react, or feel a certain way, we set ourselves up for disappointment and we dilute our relationship.
In ignoring the need to respect others’ individuality and independence, we neglect the possibility to know someone for who they truly are. It is only when we create the space to allow others to be themselves that we can get a feel for whether or not they fit into our lives.
Similarly, we oftentimes expect others to understand our needs or to be on the same page as we are, without even realizing that that is what we are doing. Then, when others do not show up for us or do not behave how we would expect them to, we feel hurt.
In reality, we have a responsibility to communicate with honesty what we understand to be our needs and boundaries, and not assume that others will ‘just know’ what those are.
When we openly communicate and leave expectations behind, then we give others the opportunity to decide if they have the capacity to engage at the level that we need and vice versa.
If we manage to do this before placing expectations on others, then we have a better chance of forming and maintaining sustainable relationships.
It is respectable to have standards that we want to meet and manifest and admirable to have metrics to gauge our progress, but it is unhealthy to obsess over an expectation and blind ourselves to the realities and paths that life places upon us.
How do you ground yourself when you become aware that you are placing unrealistic expectations on yourself or others?