If a movie review is terrible, our expectations are low, and it’s doubtful, when our expectations are met, we will be disappointed. What if a movie with our favorite stars is heralded as the movie of the year? Will our expectations become unrealistically high? Are we more likely to be disappointed when we discover the only talent existed with the marketing agent! Expectations often lead to disappointment. So how can we recalibrate our expectations to be joyful and still work toward our goals? Is it possible to be ambitious and have realistic expectations?
Is it possible that realistic expectations are in fact what lead to greater success? What if we learn the most successful people have realistic expectations, and their ability to recalibrate is precisely the key to their success?
Do we have a dog that pees and everyday we expect a pee-free home? Do we have a boss or team member with a huge ego and low EQ but still expect them to act outside their own self interest? Do we have a spouse that is a workaholic, but still expect them to be home on time?
These are all examples of our expectations really being wishes. Like wishing pigs could fly. What if we recalibrate? What if we accept the dog will pee while we are at work and so we turn our attention to solutions? We hire a pet therapist, crate them, adopt them out or tile the floor? This moves us away from unrealistic expectations and into solutions. Now, what if none of our solutions work? We have a choice; accept the dog pees or get rid of the dog. If we are afraid of either choice, then we do nothing, and expect the dog to change. This expectation means we come ‘wishing,’ are disappointed and agitated the dog peed….. again.
What if we are the workaholic and our expectation is ‘they should understand’. So we chose, by our expectations, to be angry at them for being disappointed in us. They are disappointed because we are late. We are disappointed they are angry at us for being late, so we become angry back. Now they are hurt that we don’t understand their disappointment so they withdraw or attack us. Now we are upset they don’t understand us, when after all we had a long day and really needed them. Will the mature adult step up and stop the cycle?
These are the vicious cycles of expectations, which are grounded in our EGO. This is where the self honesty comes in. Do we think “they should understand after all I do?”. Who thinks they have it worse? The person who works hard all day at the office? Or the person who works hard all day at home with the children? Who works harder, someone who listens to, cleans up after, and takes care of the incessant demands of children or someone who goes to the office and has to listen to, clean up after and take care of the incessant demands of adult children? Chuckle! See how humor and self honesty are the foundation to joy?
If we drop our ego demands of ‘entitlements, should’s and right’s’ then we may find much joy. Maybe they “should” understand why we are late. Just like maybe we “should” understand why they are disappointed. What if we say “I understand how taxing it is to prepare dinner when you never know how late I will be. My work is not on a fixed schedule and so we have to decide how to solve this challenge. We took the first step in recalibrating our expectations of how we feel they should react to us being late. If we still care about our spouse (we don’t presume everyone together still cares) then we might express to them we are willing to make up the fact we are often tardy in other ways. Maybe we turn breakfast into the family eating ritual. Maybe we commit to no phone and no work on one day per week.
The point is we offer to hear and then support the needs of our family. We accepted for ourselves and explained to them the on time demand is not realistic but we are open to solutions. Maybe we lied to them or ourselves in the past, said it will be different, made excuses or simply just quit talking about it and accepted the cold chill as we walked in the door. Where is the joy in doing this?
When we drop expectations of how it ‘should be’, and we accept ‘how it is’, we live in reality. We can then divert our attention to solutions, instead of staying stuck in old patterns, old arguments, old hurts and old disappointments. We all have that someone/situation in our life that does not live up to our image. We may not want to accept them/it because it may mean we have to make a change. So our expectations may be grounded in fear. If I drop this expectation, then I am accepting this person/situation, will always do this and I can’t imagine living life that way. So I will keep my expectation because then I don’t have to face reality and I can keep wishing that pigs will fly.
Expectations also protect my ego. I expect them to appreciate all I do (I am right) and therefore I don’t have to acknowledge or appreciate all they do (they are wrong) because I’m too busy being resentful at them for not appreciating me! All the while I am not accepting them. It’s a vicious cycle that depletes joy and sucks it from the space my ego occupies.
Self honesty about my thoughts, my expectations and the narcissistic demands of my own self importance are but a first step into the world of acceptance. The next step is to seek to understand, then present solutions and finally take action. What ego wants to sign up for all that work? If we set our ego aside, and decide that joy is what matters most, then the work will be well worth the payoff; a radical change in our inner state. A return to our natural state; our childlike joy!