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Expectations: Friend or Foe?

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

I have a love/hate relationship with expectations.

Some have told me, "Over the years to simply not have any because they only encourage disappointment." Others have had the viewpoint that expectations are necessary in order to help one stay focused, get what she wants, and avoid settling.

So which philosophy is correct? Can it be that concrete?

Over the years, I have come to realize that having expectations for people and events is very different from having expectations for objects or straight forward processes. I expect my can opener to work just as it did the day before and when the day arrives and it disappoints, l will have to work through whatever emotions arise and buy a new one. This type of disappointment is typically short-lived and for the most part, we are able to understand that sometimes objects will need to be adjusted or replaced.

Adversely, if I expect that every morning my daughter will wake up with a smile on her face, make her bed, and get ready for the day in a timely manner, I have only set the two of us up for intense AM battles. She is human and will therefore have her ‘off’ days, disrupted sleep, or anxieties about the day that lies ahead. My expectations need to take these variances into consideration.

We must give ourselves the same courtesy. This year has thrown all of us for a loop more than once. We have been forced to readjust, grieve, and consider options that we have not had to consider before. The expectations we create for ourselves must therefore adjust as well. We are not living under the same circumstances. Where we expend our energy, spend our time, and interact with others has changed so how can we have anywhere close to the same expectations as before? It is simply not sustainable. The input has been altered so the output must be adjusted as well.

Even if you were to engage in the same routine every day, eat the same foods, and attempt to move your body the same way, there would still be some variety in how you feel or how you respond. No two days are the same even if the events or people we engage in are the same.

We have the power to control how we prepare or set ourselves up, but when you really break it down, that’s about it.

Life happens and with that comes the unpredictable and unplanned.

If you are constantly feeling disappointment, try to change your mindset and come to grips with the reality that there are so many factors that are out of your control. This isn’t about being passive. Continue to fight for what’s important, speak up if change is necessary, and don’t repeatedly settle. But, live with the understanding that the world is complex, ever-changing, and people or places are not responsible for making you feel a certain way.

Be proactive and remember to give yourself grace. If you are one to create expectations for yourself, remember to factor in your current circumstances and what cards life has dealt you.

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