It’s been a long week. You’re leaving work and heading home to your partner, family, or maybe an empty apartment.
Imagining your evening — you picture cooking a lovely dinner, relaxing with some good music, and falling asleep in your partner’s arms. Maybe you’re picturing your quiet evening alone, free from stress and worries. Some damn peace and quiet. Or you’re picturing your family greeting you, grins across their faces.
But there’s a problem with these scenarios.
You’ve pictured it. And this picture ain’t real.
This picture is your expectations. And sadly, having these is hurting you. It’s sure as hell hurting me. It might even be ruining my life.
Maybe you come in the door — and instead — the house is a mess, your partner isn’t home, your kids have a cough, you don’t have eggs in the fridge after all, your shower isn’t working, your neighbours are having a party, etc., etc., etc…
What happened here?
What happened is your Expectations.
And that shit’s in your head.
It makes a lot of sense that we imagine future scenarios. It gives us comfort about what’s to come. It might help us plan our next steps. It creates peace. Certainty.
Many of us rely on certainty to get through life’s difficult moments. Certainty creates the illusion of control. Anxiety often comes with uncertainty, so we plan.
This is all in our heads. We build it up, and we expect it to play out this way.
It’s not going to.
What happens if it doesn’t?
It probably looks different for everyone. For me, it means I get testy. I’m short tempered almost instantly, like a switch going off. I come home, and I don’t see things playing out how I hoped, and sometimes I get angry so quickly I don’t even know what set me off.
I snap at my partner. I don’t feel positive. In my head I’m probably making up another narrative to suit the new scenario. It happens in a mere matter of seconds. That’s how I know I’m reacting, not responding.
I’m not actively choosing. I’m on autopilot.
It has amazed me the last few days how much emotional pain is being caused by my expectations. I’m becoming more aware, which is the first step to changing this behaviour. But it’s still crappy.
Expectations are liars and thieves. They’re distracting suckers, drawing us away from what’s real in life at that moment. Tricking us and making us forget the truths we know.
Truth #1: The people around you don’t owe you anything
It’s not other people’s fault your expectations are not living up to reality. People around you sure as heck don’t exist to fit into your idea of life, a day, a moment. Nope.
They’re not trying to deliberately hurt you either. They’re not causing you pain. The expectations are.
Truth #2: Expectations steal real moments
“Expectations will steal the gifts that are sitting right in front of you.” — Jada Pinkett Smith.
When we create or hold an expectation, we put real moments on hold. We say, “no, no, I don’t see you. You’re not there.” Instead, we try to force our vision to happen.
Let me guess. This normally does not go well.
Truth #3: Expectations lead to disappointment
And nobody likes that. It’s one of life’s shitty feelings — most often followed by a pit in the stomach and a frown.
If this is a Black Jack game, then expectations are the House. You know how this ends.
“If we can learn to let go of our expectations a little, we are much less likely to put ourselves and others under too much pressure to be ‘perfect.’ We are much less likely to feel disappointment when others don’t act how we expect them to, or we would like them to.” — Carl Phillips, Huffington Post
What can we do instead?
First of all, take a deep breath. Pause.
It’s pretty good advice for most things. But especially if you find yourself reacting to situations.
So you had an expectation. Accept that it’s okay you did. Expectations can be positive when they inspire us and help us strive for what we want.
“Human beings have a natural tendency to pin their hopes for happiness on fulfilled expectations. There is nothing wrong with this as long as we have good reasons to believe that fulfilling an expectation will make us happy, and we take the necessary steps toward fulfilling those expectations.” — Psychology Today
But its when expectations become unrealistic, for ourselves and others, then there’s a problem.
If you find yourself reacting, help yourself out by putting rules in place. Like waiting 5 minutes before talking if you feel really challenged by an expectation not being met. Or if you feel a challenging emotion that you can’t yet explain.
Responding to whatever’s going on can be achieved by putting in place tools that help you respond. Simply pausing for a few minutes can be the difference between autopilot and a conscious awareness of the present.
And that’s what deleting expectations is all about. The present.
The present moment is the only real truth in life. It’s happening right now and you can be sure of it.
Instead of expecting it to be different, try accepting it as it is.
What might we find when we see a moment for what it truly is? Maybe something we never imagined.