365 Day Journaling — Day #187 — Expectations

And why they are deadly for our mental peace…

Jul 29 · 4 min read
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Expectations are our biggest problems. I am not just talking about the expectations we have from ourself but from others as well.

We expect our partners to behave in a certain way. We expect our boss to give us a certain rating in our yearly appraisals. We expect things to turn out a certain way. And every time we expect something, we are setting ourselves to disappointment.

The expectation is the root cause of all sufferings. In Buddhism, it is thus said to rid ourself from all desires to obtain a higher state.

But is it even possible? I mean for us normal human beings and not just for Monks. I know Monks have risen themselves above worldly attachments and their inner peace is evidence from their ever-present smiles.

But we are not monks and most of use do not want to become monks — not right away anyways. So, what about the rest of us?

Expectations still cause us major problems. What we expect from others and what we expect from ourselves both have major issues.

Such expectations lead our minds to form a certain picture inside our head. We want a conversation to go a certain way. We want things to turn out the way we already expected. I am not saying that this will never happen. What we expect will sometimes happen. But not every time. And every time it doesn't happen as per our expectations, it will lead to disappointment.

Expectations are the quickest way towards disappointment.

So, what should we be doing? What I can think of is that we still need expectations and desires to lead a healthy life. What we need instead is to realise what to expect and what not to expect.

There are certain things we can control and certain we cant no matter what we do. We can't control what others think or do. What we can control instead is how we react to them. We control our actions and reactions (to some extent at the very least).

Even expecting from ourself is setting us up for a myriad of failures. I wanted to get up at 5 AM and do tons of stuff while the world is still asleep. Instead, I wake up at 8 AM and then rush by my morning routine. A clear mismatch in expected scenario vs reality.

So, if I keep focusing on what I didn't do (I.e get up at 5 AM), I will just wallow away rest of my day. Instead, if I start doing my best to be as productive as I can for the rest of the day, then that will be better utilization of my time.

Expecting from others is a disaster no matter what. No one owes me anything. I am not entitled to certain behaviour from others. The sooner I understand this, the better it will be for me.

Conversations won't go as I thought they would. People won't act the way I want them to. I need to accept this and move on. The more I stay focused on the mental picture I create inside my head, the less I will enjoy the real world.

There is fun in being surprised. The only way I will be surprised is when I am not really expecting things to go a certain way and truely take the moment as it is and not compare it with my mental version.

I know that is not always possible. In economics, there is a concept based on expected value and actual value. Say we assign amount X to an item. We expect the item to cost X amount. But when we go to the shop and actually check the price, it is either charged higher or lower than the expected amount.

Now comes an interesting concept. If the actual price is more than the expected price, we feel sad and cheated. On the other hand, if the price is less than the expected price, then we are too happy. This is what happens to us whenever we see a SALE sign. We get happy.

In life, if we keep our expectations such that reality is better than our expectations, then we can be happy most of the times. So, if we cant get rid of expectations all together, then at least we should manage them better so that it goes in our favour.

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