I’m going to try and balance this blog with some perspective since I think not only my own but also others’ perspectives on expectations can be skewed.
There’s probably no greater detriment to a person’s ability to operate on a daily basis than for expectations to be unmet. Yet if we don’t have expectations, how does the bar get raised and accomplishments are achieved? That’s where balance comes in.
ex·pec·ta·tion [ek-spek-tey-shuhn] noun
1. the act or the state of expecting: to wait in expectation. 2. the act or state of looking forward or anticipating. 3. an expectant mental attitude: a high pitch of expectation.
This definition and various modifiers seem rather neutral – neither good nor bad. So, it’s safe to say that in and of expectations themselves, they aren’t the culprit to creating issues. What is the problem then?
In my own analysis of creating expectations, I see them as both useful and dangerous. It’s really a two-sided coin that just comes with the territory. If you have an expectation of something, you may find yourself being pulled in by disappointment if those expectations aren’t met.
I’ll give you an example: a clean kitchen in the work room. My expectations USED to be that I would arrive at work with a pristine kitchen in which to make my coffee every morning. That was until I started working with four others, to remain nameless and genderless, who insist on placing their lovely used, crusty dishes and numerous plastic containers in the sink (which is all of 12” X 12”) and on the counter when there is a fully functioning dishwasher at their disposal.
Yes, the expectation to have a clean kitchen is a good expectation to have. Otherwise there would be a mountain of dishware and nothing clean to use when you need them! Let alone, it’s less of a health hazard! However, the problem lies in the fact that I can have this expectation but that is not going to change the behavior. I can complain and crab about it, but it won’t necessarily make a difference. I can beat them over the head with their own Tupperware to get them to change, but that’s not my goal! My goal is to have a clean place to look at and not worry about cockroaches doing the backstroke out of our Keurig! (I do have to give props to one, lone cohort in the office that has begun to feel bad that I’m the only one cleaning up—thanks TC.)
When I acknowledged that it was more important for me to come to work and see a clean kitchen than get certain people to clean the kitchen, I came to a peaceful, resolution within myself. My expectations had to change, otherwise I would be miserable. Now I come in every morning expecting to see something in the sink. I happily move it to the dishwasher, make my cup of coffee, and get to work.
If you’ve ever read the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, you’ll recall that one of the main themes of the book is that Pip is driven by his own expectations of self-improvement and achievement; a good thing. Right? Yet, Pip realizes that even after he torments himself about his lack of morality of performance and he arrives to live a higher class life, he finds there is not more happiness on that level than when he was a blacksmith living in poverty.
I used a rather inane example of the kitchen of how expectations can either hinder or move one to action. Expectations also live on much deeper planes i.e. performance, relationships, finances, etc. If you are miserable right now, in some way, in your job or at home, more than likely, expectations have something to do with it.
What’s out of whack? Why? Start by looking inside at your expectations of the situation or people. You probably know the answer already. What’s it going to take to be happier in this situation? Life is TOO short to be miserable! Do something about it. It’s within your power—it always is.