Expectations are one of the must fundamental element of your life. And you probably never even think about them, do you?
How often do you stop and think about where all your expectations come from? About how they stack up next to everyone else’s? And about how realistic they are (in terms of being met)?
Usually you don’t. Instead, you just “have” expectations that have been dictated by your life experiences, even if you are unaware of where they came from. And once you’ve anchored yourself to certain expectations, it’s difficult to adjust, or even realize that they are getting in your way of a perfectly good time.
Expectations are Subjective
What if you were born in a palace and told, at an early age, that everyone in the world should bow at your feet and respond to every one of your commands instantly. What if this actually happened, and after a while, it became the norm. It became your expectation.
If you were forced to leave your palace and live in the real world, what would happen if you carried the same expectations?
- You would be constantly disappointed.
- You might become furious and enraged and even find any interpersonal relationships to be almost impossible. (After all, people should be your servants!)
- You might find yourself spending all your time trying to control things — in this case, people who you expect to be your servants — instead of accepting things.
Now, who is this a problem for? It’s not a problem for anyone else around you — they might tune out your anger and complaints after a while. They might ignore you. They might come to view you as the “crazy guy who thinks he’s a Prince.” It’s a problem for one person…
You! Your expectations are your problem.
Yes, I’m using the term “problem” here because they are an obstacle to your happiness. And if you want to be happier and have improved interpersonal relationships, you need to start being acutely aware of your own expectations.
How to adjust expectations
None of this means you need to shed expectations entirely and delve into the deepest philosophies of Zen Buddhism. After all, you can’t be happy if you aren’t alive, so you need to make sure you protect yourself and survive. But after that, any expectation in your life is your own invention. It matters not where it originated, simply that you still have it.
1. Identify your expectations and where they come from
Are you aware of your expectations? The ones you carry for
- family members
- Significant Others
- yourself (!)
Write these down if you have to. The next time you are disappointed, make a note of what you were expecting to happen and what actually happened. Then, instead of focusing on what happened, focus on why you were expecting something to happen.
2. Determine if they are necessary expectations
Now that you have identified an expectation, figure out if it’s important. And I mean, really important. If your survival and welfare aren’t on the line, it probably isn’t that important. As an example, most people might have a divide like this between necessary and unnecessary expectations:
- Necessary: I expect people who care about me not to physically assault me.
- Unnecessary: I expect everyone to say nice things to me all the time.
Many of your expectations, from someone being late to your enjoyment of a movie or food to accomplishing a task list in a given day (a self-expectation!) are all simply additions to your life. They are not essential. Expecting everyone to be nice is not accepting reality — it’s trying to control something you can’t control. Besides, what is the big deal if someone says something mean? It’s not going to change your life.
And that’s it. Get in touch with your expectations. Shed (or lower) the ones that aren’t particularly important, and your Happiness Levels will naturally increase.