Great Expectations

“When you have expectations, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.” – Ryan Reynolds

Expectations – this is one of those topics that seems to always come back to me, so I thought it might just be time to write a little about it. When I was looking for a quote to help frame my writing, I came across this one from Ryan Reynolds – I think it is perfectly short, sweet and to the point. It could be my thesis statement for this piece quite frankly. Simply put, if we are being honest with ourselves we can see that our expectations of others, of ourselves, and of life in general, more often than not, lead to disappointment, frustration, and a host of other negative emotions.

The tricky thing though is that we are taught to have expectations of ourselves, of others, of our jobs, of life, of practically everything and everyone in our lives. We are taught that not to have them is actually wrong or bad. As a result, having expectations has become so second-nature to us. We don’t have to consciously think about having them…we just automatically do.

But here is the problem – when we create expectations in our minds of others, of a situation, of life in general, we are expecting to experience the person or situation in that very manner. In some cases we have played it all out in our heads to the most minute detail. We often become so attached to those expectations…enamored with them even…that if/when those expectations are not met we are sad, upset, frustrated, disappointed (or any of a host of other such feelings) and we direct those feelings and our reactions to them toward the person or situation about which we had the expectations. When it comes to placing those expectations on others, unfortunately, we unfairly do so without them even knowing it most of the time. Seldom do we tell them in advance of the expectations we hold for our interactions with them. It is really quite unfair of us, but again it is such an automatic response, rarely do we recognize what we are doing. And so a whole experience, situation or event can be ruined (at least in our mind’s eye) because of the ensuing argument or disagreement that can come from our unmet expectations. It can really be quite a vicious circle.

I am not saying we should abandon the idea of having expectations for others or for our own life, but I would suggest the better way to go about it is to share your expectations in advance and allow for conversation about them. This way the other people involved can know up front what you are looking forward to, can speak their mind if they have concerns about being able to meet your expectations, and you can gain a more realistic view of what you can/should truly expect. Really good and open communication solves many things…managing expectations is only one of them.

One final thought on expectations – in reality I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that people often confuse expectations with goals. I think part of the problem is that we use those term interchangeably when they are indeed quite different things and as such should be approached differently – this is actually a whole other topic for another time…for now though it is sufficient to say that regardless of whether you have expectations or goals in a given situation, communicating them to those you will be interacting with is key to successfully manifesting your expectations or goals.

So here’s the challenge for each of us – work on becoming more mindful…more aware…of when you create expectations and then communicate them in advance. If you by chance don’t recognize you had expectations until you are in the midst of a situation, speak up about them as soon as you do notice them. Actively work to be open and honest about your expectations and goals…trust me, the other people in your life will appreciate it and you will find much good will come from it. Keep those expectations great…just learn to communicate them clearly.