We’ve all been there. We dream of a day, or an event, and we think of every detail; how it will look, sound and smell. We imagine it from every angle and how it will look on our Instagram feed. The day finally arrives, and it’s nothing like we expected. Whether it’s a relationship, an event, a proposal, a job or a business meeting, it is not at all as we expected. Most people will drive home replaying every moment, sulking when comparing it with the imaginary version, and even laughing at how far off they were in their expectations. It happens to the best of us. Expectations gone wrong can be real life downers if not managed well.
So, what do we do? Stop planning and daydreaming of every small detail? That’s usually my favorite part of any upcoming event! Research around the subject says that you don’t exactly have to lower your standards nor expect nothing. However, the advice is to be mindful of your thinking process and acknowledge the difference between setting criteria and having solid beliefs that an event will pan out exactly how you imagined it.
The actual definition of expectations is: “A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future,” usually based on assumptions. When you assume someone is going to behave in a certain way, you have to remember that it holds them to no obligation to do so. This expected behavior wasn’t agreed on between you two. Expectations are especially tough when they involve other people because they bring their own emotions based on their day, personality or life. You can never guess how a person will behave. Having any kind of expectations of others can really be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Here is a simple example of how altering my expectations changed my perception and helped me cope with sleep deprivation with my firstborn. None of the books I read about what to expect actually prepared me for what was to come when I wasn’t sleeping at all! I mean, at all! Maybe for 30 minutes here and there throughout the entire 24-hour day, and I was about to lose it. I just wanted to sleep for a few hours; I wasn’t even expecting five or six hours of sleep, but I certainly was expecting a minimum of two or three consecutive hours. Which apparently is too much to ask when your baby is only a few days old and needs to nurse hourly.
After days of agony, tears, anger and frustration, I got on Google to see what other moms were doing. One sentence on a message board changed my entire experience and allowed me to enjoy those few months rather than just be irritated the entire time. The sentence was, “Don’t expect sleep.” Ta-da! Something just clicked in my brain, and I decided to do that. I got my Hulu, Netflix, snacks and books ready to get me through that night and did not expect to sleep at all, and it just made the process so much easier and more tolerable. I was still exhausted, I still needed my sleep; I just wasn’t miserable anymore. That was an eye-opening moment for me about expectations in life in general and how to manage them and how it affects your life.
Another “Ah-ha” moment was when I started my first business. I would nearly give myself an aneurysm anytime something happened that wasn’t planned or expected. After talking myself down from the (metaphorical) ledge a few times and having a heart-to-heart with myself, I concluded that I needed to start expecting issues when it came to my business. Who said it was going to flow easily and nothing at all would arise that will disappoint me or set me back or change my entire budget for the year? I had to expect it to be challenging, I had to expect issues on a daily basis. Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. Once I altered my perception and became more aware of that reality, it prepared me to run my business with more strength and less stress.
Tips on how to manage your expectations:
- Don’t mistake expectations for goals.
- Hold on to your positive aspirations.
- Be mindful when setting criteria not to be too impractical or unreachable.
- Accept what curve balls might come and go with the flow. Add “C’est la vie!” to your list of mantras.
- Hope, don’t expect.
Please share your stories of how you managed your expectations in life where it led to a better, more positive state of mind.
“He was swimming in a sea of other people’s expectations. Men had drowned in seas like that.”
― Robert Jordan, New Spring