Expectations


I was talking to a friend the other day and she expressed that she was very disappointed that another friend had let her down. This friend had treated her with a fair amount of disrespect. I asked her why she was so disappointed in that and she replied that she expects people to treat others with respect. She treats others with respect and she expects them to do the same. That got me thinking about expectations. Why do we have expectations? Why do we expect certain things to happen, or to be a certain way? It’s an interesting concept that many of us have probably given little thought to. When I started thinking about it, a whole host of things came to light that I think are interesting. Maybe you will too.

The question of expectations brings up the issue of control. We have almost no control over anything that happens. And that’s a problem for a lot of people. People like control. They like their day to go a certain way. They like their children to behave, they like their jobs and their homes and environment to go in the way they expect things to go. They don’t like it when things get “out of control.” One of the big reasons we are disappointed is because things didn’t go the way we wanted them to. And that takes us back to expectations. We are disappointed because our expectations are not met.

If I ask a friend for help and they say no, I find that I’m disappointed. I think my friend should help me. I’ve helped him quite a few times after all, why won’t he help me when I need it? And then I blame my friend for my disappointment, when the truth is, my disappointment is my own fault. It’s my fault because I had an expectation that wasn’t met. There are many reasons why my friend might not help me when I ask. There’s at least a 50% chance at any given time that someone will not meet your expectations. Depending on a lot of variables, like how their day is going, what kind of mood they’re in, etc. So anytime you want something, if you have an expectation that that want will be met, you’re setting yourself up for a pretty fair chance that you’ll be disappointed. And this takes us back to control. We want things under our control, and we don’t like it when they’re not. So what can be done about that?

If we don’t have expectations, we will find that there’s a lot less disappointment in our lives. How can you do that? You have to give up the notion of control. And that can be hard. You have to make yourself understand that the only things you can control are the things you think, do, or say. Without force, you cannot control anything anyone else does. So when you expect something to go a certain way and it doesn’t, you have to realize that you had no way of controlling that situation. And because you couldn’t control it, having an expectation of the results just sets you up for disappointment. So can my friend really blame her other friend for the way she was treated? Or should she realize that she had an unrealistic expectation of how that situation should have went? Keeping in mind that this is not a license for people to be shitty human beings and blame others for expecting them not to be.

Should you be able to expect others to treat you with respect? In a perfect world, yes you should. But we don’t live in a perfect world. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t want people to treat us well. But if we don’t have the expectation that they will or they won’t, when they don’t, we won’t be disappointed. Controlling our own minds is something we can do. We can control how we think. We can decide not to have expectations about how things should go, giving up the illusion of control. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a situation to go a certain way, but when we expect it to go our way and it doesn’t, that’s when we run into trouble. Controlling our own thoughts, our own desires, is the only way we can control the amount of disappointment we suffer. And that’s a good goal, isn’t it? To be less disappointed makes room for more happiness.

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