Managing Expectations: A Simpler Way of Life
December 28, 2021
Definition of expectations: you are expected to show up to work dressed, not naked.
Let’s look at this analogy for what it is, without any hidden connotations. This is a simple outcome that is considered an appropriate action within society.
I personally have a love-hate relationship with this term. Known as the number one initiator to stress, this term has an even more comprehensive level of misunderstanding and destruction attached to it.
Many of us are motivated by expectations- only when I’m expected to hand in the report at a certain deadline will my creative juices start flowing. But there’s a flip side- the expectation from my partner to just know how I’m feeling and if they can’t figure it out, there’s a disappointment.
They say that it’s good to have expectations, that when we place an expectation upon another, we’re making the connection deeper. It is the entry point of a conversation, a commitment, a dialogue about what each person in the relationship requires, a starting point for change- in any scenario.
But then we start believing that only once these expectations are fulfilled will it bring us happiness, we begin to put all this pressure on it. Expectations then get viewed as ‘unvolunteered’ agreements.
There’s one thing to have certain expectations from a work environment, you’re being paid and so you must deliver. Then there’s another kind that one has from themselves. And then there’s the scary kind- the one we have from others.
Why is it that we attach so much importance to the term? Why do we expect so much from expectations? And what happens when our expectations aren’t met?
Expectations are born from a very simple, innocent space in our minds, when we expect, we don’t think of it not being met. Then life happens, someone or we ourselves let us down, our innocent hearts filled with hope break.
This “let down” creates a gap in our mind, almost like a disconnect, we feel betrayed, misunderstood, hurt. Stress and anxiety creep in. We begin to place blame and start looking for faults, where to begin with wasn’t anyone else’s responsibility.
Now, there are two scenarios here, one that we are sensitive people, and the second they are not sensitive people. I could state that we’re all built differently, we’re all on our own journey, learning our lessons at our own time. Comprehending this takes a level of maturity that we sometimes want to forget, we want what we want, when we want, and from whom we want. And logic fails us as emotions take over.
But, knowing each of these potential case scenarios, and more importantly, how to avoid them, is a life skill that can serve us well. Once we being to recognize them, it’s surprising how often throughout our day expectations are at play. I guess what I’m trying to say is- we should manage our expectations and not put so many unspoken responsibilities upon anyone.
Here are some tips to Avoid Having Unrealistic Expectations:
Communicate: Manage other’s expectations of you
Let people know exactly what your boundaries are; when you’re available or not, where you are and are not flexible, etc. It is important to let people know your preferences instead of leaving it to chance as it leads to a healthier understanding. If Aunt Shelly knows when you are going to visit and how long you intend to stay, she is less likely to anticipate you staying longer and feeling hurt when you leave.
Avoid Destination Happiness Syndrome: Enjoy your present moment
“As soon as I get that raise, I’ll be happy.” “Once we’re married, I’ll feel content.” “This holiday will help me snap out of it.”. These are fantasies and dreams that are disguised as expectations. Goals are great; however, expectations just make people feel bad. Live in the present moment and appreciate your life for what it is now and not what it should be.
Ask questions: Stop assuming
Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if you just asked? What if your friend didn’t want that big surprise party and instead just a quiet dinner? Or if you think your colleague knows to whom you want your documents mailed; but sends them to the wrong person. Save yourself time and effort- ask in advance.
Understand biases: Accept people for who they are
Accepting people for who they are automatically relieves them and us of assumptions. If I know my friend is always late, I will be better prepared when I reach the cinema before her. Knowing where our friends and family stand on certain issues and their core beliefs can help us have compassion for and communicate better.
Remove the burden: End toxicity
Nobody likes being misunderstood. We all want to be loved and accepted for who we are. When expectations are projected, the consequences can be very uncomfortable when the assumptions fail. And this can cause misunderstandings and toxicity in relationships.
Observing and managing the role expectations play in our everyday interactions can allow us to feel lighter. You know now that showing up dressed in public is a simple request, but then we go the extra mile to wear the tie, or the heels, and the make-up, and the jewelry, and so on. And this spiral extends to all our interpretations of what is ‘expected’ out of us. Exit the spiral, keep it simple!
Prerna Chowdhary Siroya
An activist for change, trying to be a worthy member of the human race taking one baby step at a time. Passionate about everything psychology and currently studying to be a psychologist. Adrenaline and coffee addict, I love exploring, trying anything and everything new and scary!
*People only meet you as deeply as they’ve met themselves*