As much as I love the fabulous book, “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, the great expectations I refer to today are quite unrelated. Today’s post was sparked by a conversation I had yesterday with an old friend, so I have her to thank for that.
We all have expectations in life. Whether they are great or small, outspoken or in the back of our minds, concerning ourselves or others. But what purpose do those expectations serve? And what effect do they have on us and our quality of life? Those are questions that we seldom think about. In my opinion, expectations can make or break you! When you expect something of yourself, it can give you the push you need to strive and achieve that goal. It can be a tangible goal or a goal that has to do with your emotional well-being or personal development perhaps. Your expectations, in this case, become synonymous with believing in yourself. However, if your expectations going into marriage, for example, are not realistic they could end up jeopardizing your relationship or even ending it!
So what’s the rule when it comes to setting your expectations? And is it possible at all that you make sure that you are almost never let down? The answer was handed to me years ago, in 2005 to be specific, on a silver platter! One of the wisest and sincerest friends I have ever had, Mina M., responded to my question about how can one not feel let down when someone they truly care about and trust doesn’t live up to their expectations with the words, “Well, what I have got myself accustomed to is not to have any expectations whatsoever when it comes to others. That way, they can never let me down! Anything they do, no matter how small, will be significant and will, essentially, be better than what I expected! Thus, having the effect of surprising me pleasantly and I will appreciate them for it.” I don’t know if I was able to justly convey the depth of his words but hearing them was an epiphany to me! And the way he said it, as if it were common sense and everyone should come to that realization on their own, made me feel like it was such a simple answer that I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t smart enough to reach it on my own. But, upon further reflection I realized it was not simple at all. In fact, it was one of the most complex concepts I have ever encountered. To achieve such a goal, one needs to have tremendous self-control and self-discipline. You, essentially, need to know how to manipulate your self into believing what you want it to believe. You need to train yourself to do the exact opposite of something you have been doing daily for the past two or three decades! Not simple, not simple at all.
Yet, if you are able to achieve such a goal, you will reap the vast reward on a daily basis. Seldom will you be disappointed by others. All the whys hows and how could theys will disappear when someone does something that you would have otherwise considered a betrayal, let down or hurt! You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you are the only person that you expect anything from and anything that anyone else does is either insignificant or exceeds your expectations. You would, literally, expect no less from anyone since you already expect, well, nothing!
If you cannot display such self-discipline, then at least try to have realistic expectations. I, for one, have gotten a lot better with regards to what I expect of others but I cannot look you in the eye and truthfully say that I expect nothing from everyone. It’s a work in progress and I am glad that my expectations are now limited to those I love and trust and know for a fact they feel the same way about me as well. I am no longer surprised when that “friend” only talks to me when she needs a favor or that colleague invites me to lunch when she’s working on something that I have more knowledge of or when that relative only emails me around summer time when she wants to know if I’ll be going back home for a visit. I have more realistic expectations, and the only way I was able to achieve that was by taking my feelings towards that person out of the equation. My perception of the individual plus my feelings towards them were always involved in the shaping of my expectations. Now, I consciously do not allow that to happen! My expectations are set based on my past experience with that individual and on the capabilities I know that s/he has. Needless to say, I have been disappointed far less ever since I started to do so. And when I am disappointed, I don’t let it get to me or break my spirit.
I have grown stronger and more mature. I now know what life is really like and what it can throw your way. I learned that even when people disappoint you, sometimes it’s neither your fault nor theirs. I learned that those who care about you would never intentionally hurt you but if they do so, unintentionally, they will try to rectify the situation or at least give you an explanation and it is your role to forgive them. I learned that you should not allow anything or anyone to break your spirit, you hold the keys to your life and well-being, don’t hand them over to anyone else no matter who they are. I have learned to listen to and contemplate any advice I get and try to build on it if it is relevant to me and discard it completely if not. I also learned that it’s better to live up to your own expectations rather than wait for others to do so, but that those expectations should be realistic and fair. And no matter what you do, know that other people’s expectations of you are not an obligation, they are what they are … just their expectations.