To expect, or not to expect?
And if you do expect, how much should you before it all spirals into disappointment and dissatisfaction?
But if you don’t expect, are you lowering your standards? Are you reducing your expectation level in order to overly compensate for the lack of it?
We all expect. We expect things from friends & family, relationships, environments, situations, practically everything. I do too.
But the whole problem is, I over-expect more often than I wish I did. And I also get disappointed more easily because I over-expect.
It’s tricky because you don’t know how much is too much and you can’t decide just when to stop expecting.
I usually measure it up against myself. If I do so much for a person, I expect them to do the same for me. If I go out of the way to help someone, I expect them to return the favor. If I go to a certain length for an event or a scenario, I expect that event to be fulfilling and make me feel like it was worth the effort.
If I put so much of myself into something, I expect returns. I mean, isn’t it natural to want equal reciprocation?
I cannot begin to tell you how many of those expectation levels were never met. I expected too much, did too much, dreamed too much, pictured certain outcomes too much, and they all left me disappointed and disheartened.
What is it about human behavior that makes us picture a certain outcome, and believe so much in it, that we are completely crestfallen when it’s not met?
And you think we would learn from experience, but no.
We repeat this behavior over and over till we either get upset with the other party or stop expecting all together.
Why can’t we just balance it out? Why can’t we just learn to expect from places where it matters the most?
But how do you know when to limit yourself?
So here’s the thing, if you keep your expectations low, you have a slim chance of being disappointed. But if you lower them too far, you face the criticism of being easy to please.
So what do you do?
I believe the only way is to learn what to expect from certain situations.
For example, you write a story, and you are quite proud of how it’s turned out. You want to illicit a certain response from your audience and you’re already dreaming about how much they will love it, before you actually put it out there.
As it turns out, it didn’t work to the extent you wanted it to. The response was ok, baseline, and very mediocre. Naturally, you are disappointed. Now, was it wrong for you to expect a response on the basis of your effort? No. But will the outcome solely depend on how much work you put into it? Not really. And the sooner you realize this bitter truth, the better.
Expectations fall short when reciprocation comes into context. The moment more than one party is involved, you are at the risk of things not going according to your imagination. And it is but the reality of things. Even if you put your 120% into something, it will always face the risk of disappointment. It’s how the world works, unfortunately.
Now how do you know which situations to expect in?
To be honest, it’s all trial and error.
I know some of my friends very well, and they know me well too. Our expectation levels have been set after years of studying the dynamics of our friendship. But there can be certain situations where they fall short, and I never hold it against them. Why? Because there is one important element of expectation we all forget-situation.
There can be certain situations which can turn scenarios completely around. They might be forced to react and respond in a certain way, which is merely caused by the situation they are currently in. And it's not their fault. You can’t blame them.
Here is where understanding comes into play. Not expectation, but understanding.
Honestly, it’s easier said than done. I know.
It’s easy to say that you need to start expecting less and know when to expect, and do that study to quantify the amount of expectation.
But I think something you should never do, is stop expecting from yourself and your abilities.
For me, it’s a healthy level of expectation.
As long as you aren’t too hard on yourself, this helps steer you to be more motivated. It helps you develop certain skill sets and improve them.
So go ahead, expect certain things from yourself. Expect discipline, expect boundless creativity, expect commitment, and expect self-love.
I won’t tell you to stop expecting; it’s harder that it sounds. I know, I have tried. But start learning to expect from the right things and you just may be pleasantly surprised.
May you expect the best of yourself,