Expectations, Expectations, Expectations . . .

As I think about my relationships with myself and those around me, I realize these relationships are influenced by many things. But one of the biggest influencers of these relationships is my own expectations as well as the expectations of others. Expectations are our beliefs about what might happen in the future. We use expectations because they help make our lives more predictable. We learn from our past experiences and then create expectations to help us predict how things will turn out. We expect things such as the sun setting every evening or our parents visiting every Thanksgiving. Expectations are present in every aspect of our lives, but the challenge comes when we try to fit our lives into our current expectations when perhaps there’s another way – a better way. This is especially true in regard to things that are out of our control.  

Sometimes our expectations can make us happy. When it’s a beautiful sunny day, and I take my dog for a walk, I expect that we are both going to enjoy our time outdoors. But there are other expectations we have that leave us feeling frustrated. For example, when I expect my husband to make dinner and clean up the kitchen when I work late, and he doesn’t do that. The expectations that make us happy we want to keep, but the ones that frustrate us might require some reflection to see if there is another way we can approach things to make them go a bit better. As the quote from an unknown author says, “Sometimes we create our own heartbreaks through expectations.” 

Perhaps there is a better way we can deal with the expectations in our lives. First, we can evaluate our expectations and see if they are realistic. Second, if they are not, we can change our expectations. And third, we can share our expectations with others so they know exactly where we stand. Being honest about our expectations changes our relationships with others as well as ourselves. That’s why reflecting on them is so important. Only then can we determine which expectations need to be changed and which ones need to be released. Once we do this, it will greatly impact our lives.   

But it’s not just our own expectations we need to evaluate. It’s also other people’s expectations. These expectations can influence us far more than we realize. When we clean our houses before company comes, it’s often because we are concerned about what others will think of our homes. We are afraid they may judge us if our houses aren’t clean. And for some of us, this expectation of a clean house may come from our families of origin. If our mothers valued a clean and organized house, and now we are the same way with our own families, perhaps we have taken our mothers’ expectations of a clean house and made them our own. Society has expectations of us as well. Society expects women to have successful careers and take care of their families while men are expected to be good providers. Often, we internalize these expectations of others and society without even realizing it. But with a little reflection, we may see that perhaps there’s a better way.

This week, evaluate your expectations. What do you expect of yourself, and what do you expect of others? Are any of your expectations influenced by your family or society? If so, how? And, have you internalized any of these expectations and made them your own? Once you’ve reflected upon these things, keep the expectations that make you happy, but consider revising or releasing the rest. You may discover that your family or society has had a greater influence over you than you thought. But, it’s not too late to change that. Be honest with yourself and with those around you about what you expect and see if those current expectations fit into your life anymore. Perhaps there is another way – a better way that will bring you more joy. More reasonable expectations mean a happier life. As Donald Miller said in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, “When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are,” and I would like to say that also includes yourself. 

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