Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Enigma of Expectations

In my line of work I’ve noticed a recurring theme – expectations are the cause of a lot of unhappiness.  Old Webster defines expectation as – "a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen."  Whether you realize it or not your life is often filled with expectations.  If I had to guess, I would venture to say that in every relationship you are involved in there are expectations.  Your parents or guardians expect you to clean your room, help around the house, and get good marks/grades.  Your teachers expect you to finish your homework, study for tests, and pay attention in class.  Your friends expect you to text, chat, call them, as well as lots of other things.  Your significant other usually has a plethora of expectations.  Expectations in and of themselves are not a bad thing.  However, problems usually arise for two reasons:   

First, somebody in the relationship has what the other person considers ‘unrealistic’ expectations.  Your parents want you to excel in every class.  While this may be possible, this puts a lot of pressure on you to meet your parents' or guardians' expectations.  A simple mistake and those negative emotions tend to creep into your life (i.e. I’m stupid.  How could I make that mistake? They’ve done so much for me, why can’t I live up to their expectations?   I’m not good enough.)  Of all the people I’ve met so far, no one would ever want a loved one to feel that way.  However, we have learned to be disappointed and feel like garbage if we are unable to meet the expectations of others.
Second, and perhaps the more common of the problems – expectations are never clearly communicated.  How often have you had a conversation with the people in your life about expectations?  Have you asked your parents what they expect from you?  Have you asked your teachers or coaches about their expectations?  Have you spoken with your friends?  Just as importantly, have you shared your expectations with your children, spouse, significant other, friends, co-workers, etc.?  Far too often we fall short of the expectations of others not on purpose, but because we never even knew it was an expectation.  Or, the expectation was not clearly communicated.

The more clear we are with those around us about our expectations the more clarity we gain into what is expected of us.  With the clarity choices become easier.  Now, instead of letting someone down without even knowing it, we are able to make a decision, knowing full well that we may not be living up to someone else’s expectations.

So, I expect after reading this, you will have the courage to go out and have conversations with those you care about regarding your expectations as well as their expectations.

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