Do you remember the last time something didn’t turn out as expected? How did you feel? I know I felt very disappointed. But the question is, why was I disappointed, or why does anyone feel sad or disappointed when their expectations aren’t met? After all, our expectations are, more often than not, only in our own heads, without the outside world has any knowledge of them.
Speaking in more specific terms, working in the recruitment field has shown me this time and time again. When the expectations aren’t set properly between me and the clients I work with, at least one of us inevitably gets disappointed, frustrated, even angry, because what I thought would happen didn’t happen, or what my client thought would happen didn’t happen. We might be expecting something, but we’re both unaware of the fact that we don’t meet eye-to-eye.
This can also be applied to your daily life; when was the last time you went to the movies, and it turned out to be boring? Or when did you expect it to be sunny, and it started raining? Our expectations are constantly being let down; the last time I went to the store to buy eggs, I was disappointed because there were none left. I was expecting there to be eggs, and there were none – my day was ruined! (Not really, but you get the point).
Now, I’m not saying that having expectations is a bad thing. If you never expect anything, life could get very boring. Sometimes your expectations will be let down, and that’s completely fine; you’ll have the chance to learn something from it, and grow as a person. The way to minimize the chances of being let down, in my own experience, is to make a conscious effort to keep your expectations in check. I do this every day; is it reasonable for me to expect the sun to shine tomorrow? I can hope it does, but to be honest, I’d have to be extremely full of myself to really believe that the weather revolves around my expectation.
Throughout the day, if I find myself expecting something, I take a second to think about if it makes sense for me to expect it. If it’s a pre-agreed time for a meeting, then yes, I believe I can fully justify my expectation of meeting someone, but if, say, the gym is more full than I had expected, and I have to wait for my turn longer than I expected (which happened earlier today, by the way), I can’t really justify being disappointed just because I went to the gym during rush hour.
Something that I’ve noticed I do a lot myself, and I really think most people do, is hold unbelievably high expectations for themselves. This can be more dangerous than holding high expectations for others; if you constantly expect more from yourself than you can accomplish, you’ll be letting yourself down all the time. A good exercise to help with this is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – would it make sense to hold anyone else to the same standards?
In addition to having high expectations for ourselves, many a time we hold ourselves to other people’s expectations. In this situation, again, it’s important to think whether or not those expectations have any merit. If, say, your friend always expects you to spend time with them when they want you to, is it a fair expectation? Or if your mother expects you to call home every other day, do you need to, simply based on her expectations?
Of course it’s important to be respectful (and call your mother!), but in the end, you can’t live your life according to what other people expect from you; it can even be scary to break these expectations, but you only have one life, and the only expectations you should always follow are the well-founded ones you set for yourself; be it with your friends, family, work, or any other aspect of your life.