We all have certain expectations for our lives, strong ideas about what should and will happen to and for us. We base our expectations on our past experiences, our hopes and dreams, our desire to impress each other, what we see in movies, and any number of other ideas and influences. But do you ever stop to consider where your expectations come from and whether they’re actually serving your best interest or not? Most often when I find myself disappointed in a situation I find that if I examine it deeply, it’s my expectations that are causing my disappointment and not the situation itself.
Most of the time we have high expectations, hoping for outcomes that will be positive, financially lucrative, and make others envious of our wonderful lives. I mean, really…isn’t that what 90% of social media is all about? Most of us don’t post our lives as they really are, we’re all too busy carefully crafting our photos and captions to convey just how “amazingly awesome” every moment of our day is and how “truly blessed” we all are! And all this does is perpetuate the expectations that we have as we all strive to emulate the exaggerated faux perfection we scroll through. (Check out this quick read by Derek Sivers called Travel Without Social Praise, so accurate.)
When we decide up front that we expect a certain outcome, we fail to appreciate our lives as they unfold. Sometimes we miss important moments altogether because we’re so focused on what we think should be happening. How many times have you found yourself feeling sad or let down after a holiday, birthday or anniversary simply because it didn’t play out the way you imagined? I know I have and I can admit that I’ve acted like a spoiled little brat, completely negating all that was done for me because it didn’t look the way I wanted it to. How ridiculous is that?
On the flip side, sometimes we have negative expectations based on bad experiences we’ve had in the past. We assume that we will be treated poorly and are unworthy, maybe even that we deserve it. When that doesn’t happen, when we’re shown appreciation or respect or love we may find ourselves apprehensive and doubting. We dismiss anything good in our life and watch closely for the seemingly inevitable fall. And while we wait for the anticipated negativity we miss all the good in front of us right now.
We place expectations on every aspect of our lives. Special events, vacations, careers, relationships, children, meals, finances, our appearance, all of it – nothing is safe from the heavy burden of our expectations. And all the while we wonder why we so often feel unsatisfied, lacking, empty. I am finding more and more that when I set aside my ideas of what should be happening and instead accept and immerse myself in what is ACTUALLY occurring, two things become apparent:
- Reality is usually far better than my expectations. Letting go of my notions allows me to fully enjoy the surprise and the fun and the joy of the situation as it comes. Instead of comparing, I’m experiencing.
- My happiness is not dependent on what’s going on around me. I have the choice to be happy any time and all the time, regardless of the situation.
It is said that having high standards and low expectations makes for a fulfilling life and I agree with that statement 100% . Setting boundaries about how you will be treated and what is acceptable is healthy and important. But when we hold so tightly to our expectations of situations and especially of others, we miss out on so many opportunities for growth, laughter, learning, joy, excitement, surprise and love. We fool ourselves into believing that our happiness is dependent on the minute details and actions of others and we allow any deviation from our expectations to rob us of the joy that we deserve and would otherwise have. Why give that kind of power away?
Let’s check our expectations at the door from now on. As they come on, see them for what they are and set them aside in favor of living our life as it comes and give ourselves permission to smile a little more and stress a little less. It just might make a world of difference.
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