What are you expecting? There are some who believe that they should live life without any expectations at all. In that way there is little room for disappointment. But that is a bit unrealistic, don’t you think? We all live life with expectations, whether or not we are consciously aware of it. For example, we expect our children to behave in alignment with the upbringing and values we have instilled in them. We expect our spouse to be faithful or to fulfil certain needs. When we leave our homes in the morning, we expect to get to our destination safely. We expect to receive our pay cheque at the end of the month. Maybe, we are expecting a promotion, or a job offer. We may even be expecting a negative outcome from a recent encounter or project or life in general. Having expectations is unavoidable.
However, some of our expectations may be realistic and some may be unrealistic. Some may be healthy, and some may be unhealthy. Some expectations may serve us, while others may not. Since they all shape and impact our lives in one way or another, it behooves us to work at successfully managing our expectations. So, I ask you the question again, what are you expecting?
The ‘Fuzzy Glass’ of Expectations
One common place in which we tend to hold unrealistic expectations is in our relationships. We expect persons to live up to certain standards, or treat us a certain way or fulfill certain needs. But we must ask ourselves, are those expectations realistic? More importantly are they realistic and reasonable for the individuals on whom we are imposing such expectations?
“All the people in our life are truly doing the best they can with what they have. People can only love you to the capacity that they are able to love themselves. They can only forgive and embrace you to the capacity that they are able to forgive and embrace themselves. They can only give you what they have the capacity to give. You may think that you deserve more and you may be correct. But that means nothing if a person simply does not have the ability to give it to you.”
I thank Lisa Nichols for writing these words, because she is very correct. A banana tree cannot give you pears. Likewise, a 16oz cup does not have the capacity to hold a litre of liquid. Neither can a person give to you, or receive, what they do not have the capacity to. With this change in perspective, we can avoid the pain of unmet expectations, and over expending ourselves; constantly pouring into others what they simply do not have the capacity to receive. When viewed from this perspective, acceptance becomes easier and we can come to better appreciate those persons in our lives for who they are.
When I shared the idea of this post with a friend of mine, he said to me, “yeah, expectations are characterized by distortion and unpredictability.” Think of it as looking through a fuzzy glass window. You can’t clearly see what is there. The image has become distorted due to the fuzziness of the glass. You therefore cannot see the real image. The truth of the matter is, often when we allow ourselves to let go of our expectations, only then are we able to see the reality. Only then are we able to see the true image.
Sometimes the reality may surprise us, other times it may disappoint us. In some cases, the reality may be better than our expectation, but we are unable to see that because we insist on looking through that ‘fuzzy glass’. So we end up missing out on something great. Only in letting go of one thing, are we able to take hold of something else. We need to make space for something else. It is no different from the fact that from time to time we engage in closet cleaning, in order to make space for new items of clothing. Similarly, if we are grasping on to one thing with our hands, we need to let go of it if we want to grasp something else. In our lives we have to make space for growth, we have to make space to receive new things, and that may mean letting go of some mindsets, behaviors and attitudes. Including unrealistic or unhealthy expectations. Based on the circumstance we may even need to reexamine those expectations that we think to be reasonable. Take a closer look, are they really?
I Can See Clearly Now
Hold a spirit of optimism and positive expectation that things will work out for you.
On the other hand, not all expectations are unrealistic or unhealthy. We do need to live life with some measure of expectation. Expectation is a state of waiting. It is, ‘to look out for’. It represents hope and optimism. What is life without hope? Motivational Speaker Les Brown advises, “Hold a spirit of optimism and positive expectation that things will work out for you.” He also says, “Want shows up in conversation – Expectation shows up in behavior.”
It means that expectation has to be married with behavior. Whatever you are expecting, whatever you are hoping to attract into your life, your behavior and attitude should align with that. You have to do the work! For example, if you are expecting a promotion, you have to prepare for that promotion. It may mean additional training, or retraining, or teaching someone else so they can eventually full your current position. It may even mean improving at your current responsibilities, in order to show that you are capable of greater responsibilities, or putting in extra hours sometimes without compensation.
It is normal and healthy, to expect good things to come into your life. Whatever we focus on is what we will attract and maximize in our lives. So let your expectations be good and positive. Train yourself to recognize when you are acting from a place of fear and negativity, stop take notice, and then take corrective action. Your action may come in the form of a mantra, or affirmation or meditation or any other method that suits your needs. It may even come in the form of a real conversation with yourself, in the mirror. I actually do that sometimes.
Motivational Speaker, Michael Bernard Beckwith advises, “You attract to you the predominant thoughts that you are holding in your awareness, whether those thoughts are conscious or unconscious.” Consider the theory on the law of attraction, which partly says that, “like attract like, so when you think a thought, you are also attracting like thoughts to you”. Here is a helpful article that discusses the theory and some of its benefits to overall well-being.
We should reflect and introspect regularly and make adjustments where they are necessary. This way we are constantly growing and making strides towards our best selves. I encourage you to examine what your expectations are as it relates to your relationships and every other area of your life. Are you holding others to expectations that are unrealistic or that they cannot live up to? That is not fair to them nor to you. Such unmet expectations can drive us toward anger, depression and a host of other negative feelings.
Are you optimistic and hopeful or are you pessimistic and living in fear of the worse? Why don’t you do an expectations inventory? The ones which involve others, may require that you engage those persons on what your expectations are, but remember you only have control over yourself and your attitude. Choose to focus on those things which you can control and do not overemphasize those things which you have no control over. Accept that there are some things you cannot control and that there are some expectations that will not be met. Therefore, dispose of those and other unrealistic or unhealthy expectations.
I realize that not everyone believe in Christian principles or the Bible, but if you do, note that the Bible is premised on expectation. We live with the expectation/hope of the second coming of Jesus Christ. Proverbs 23:18 says, “you will be rewarded for this; your hope will not be disappointed” (NLT). I encourage you to stand on this promise and apply it to every area of your life. Expect good and positive things to come into your life. What you expect, is what you will attract.