Everyone has expectations. We expect certain things out of life, out of our day, out of our relationships, and out of ourselves. It is incredibly important to have expectations so that you know what you are willing to accept and what you are striving for. You can’t live a healthy, full life if you expect nothing out of it. We even ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This sets an expectation that they can be anything they want to be. While this can be a bit of a controversial conversation, I believe it is a positive to tell children (or anyone really) that if they work hard, they can achieve their dreams. We should all believe that we can accomplish our goals, whether it means that we find a new passion along the way or achieve what we set out to do. But while a certain set of expectations is healthy and necessary for progress through life, another set can really get in your way.
What do you expect from the people around you? From your job? From your partner? From the restaurant or bar that you frequent? If your expectations of a partner involve only a living person, I might suggest that you raise the bar a little bit (okay, a lot). If your expectations of a partner have to do with wealth, a full head of hair, a PhD, a boat, and a villa in France, you’ll have to think about whether the ten people in the world that meet that description are worth your being lonely until (or if ever?) you meet one of them. If you have a job that doesn’t pay you in a timely manner, that is an expectation you have every right to argue with your boss about. If you are irritated in your office everyday because your view is of the parking lot rather than the foliage, you might want to think about where that irritation is coming from.
Disappointment is the result of expectations. If you expect nothing, you can’t be disappointed. If you expect the world, you will find yourself being let down constantly. In my opinion, it is finding a happy middle and deciding what things are worth letting go of expectation. I have been challenged by a number of medical problems in my life, most of them being autoimmune and pain related. I have been negotiating my body situation for well over twenty years, sixteen of which have involved frequent doctor visits and medications. It is what it is! Do you know that saying that the kids are taught in preschool, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset?” I have kind of taken that attitude for my situation. My issues are not going to go away, they aren’t going to kill me, they are an annoyance in my life, but that’s it. So I made a decision long ago that my day is never based on how I’m feeling physically. Granted, some days feel better to my body than others, but I don’t let it affect my day. I have no expectations about how I will feel each morning – other than happy. Because that is my choice. If I decide that tomorrow I’m going to feel “all better,” chances are that I’m going to be sorely disappointed. And who wants that kind of life?
Life is a series of decisions, moments and expectations. Think about what really matters to you. If your husband offers to do the dishes and you see that he used the “wrong towel” to dry them, take a moment. If your expectations were that he’d use another towel and he should KNOW that he isn’t supposed to use that towel and now you have to do them all over again… take a breath. Your husband did the dishes for you. For YOU. His intentions were to help. And we’re talking about a towel. If you can change your expectations, you can change your happiness.
Even small moments have this result – and are often the easiest to change. If you go on a trip with friends or family and the place you planned to visit today is closed, have your momentary disappointment and then brush it off. Visit tomorrow! You’re on vacation!! Go enjoy doing something else. Change your attitude.
You are in control of your disappointment the vast majority of the time, so think about that the next time you feel this way. When you find yourself being disappointed in something or someone, step back for just a second. Ask yourself what it was that you were expecting that led to your feeling this way. Is it legit? Is it something silly? Is it something that you really need to care about? What expectations can you change that will help you not feel this way next time? If you can begin doing this on a regular basis, you will likely find that both situations happen. If you can change the moments that you realize are no big deal (“They only had vanilla and I wanted chocolate,” “The movie I wanted to see was sold out, so I had to see a different one,” “My partner said that they would do this at 11am and they did it at noon instead”), you will likely be able to find yourself in a much calmer mood – and much more easily find your happiness.