I read an article about a theory of why people have divorces and the conclusion was unmet expectations. Relationships break down when we observe that someone has broken our expectations of them. It made me think of not just every relationship in my life but of everything in life. We generally have expectations in our life. In general, we are conditioned to expect perfection these days. We read and hear of success stories. We see professionally photographed and heavily photoshopped images of happy perfect beautiful people in front of a beautiful sunset on an exotic vacation. We do no hear about the failures or all the shots that it took to get that perfect photo. It is like we do not believe that chaos and misfortune exist anymore sometimes. If it isn't perfect and Instagram worthy, we are disappointed. On the other hand, Buddhist believe that life is just an existence of pain, suffering, and misery; far from the perfect world that we expect today of rainbows, unicorns, and rolled ice cream. But life is somewhere in between.
How do we develop our expectations?
If you think about it, how did your expectation of anything form? When we start life, we do not really expect some woman to shoove a breast in our face to feed us. We just cry and hopefully we get fed. No disappointment. Just glad we did not starve and die. After a while, we expect that it without even needing to cry. When this does not happen, we do not just cry, we scream and cry like a climate change induced hurricane prepared to wreck havoc on anyone who opposes us. At some point in life, we just expect things because we get used to things being a certain way because society made things so easy. We expect certain things to be done for us. We expect people to treat us a certain way. We expect certain grades, jobs, salaries, presents, and the list goes on and on. I guess this can be called a sense of entitlement. That somehow we deserve things. Our entitlements become our expectations.
Are your expectations justified?
Some of us have low expectations while some of us have high expectations. Some of the time, we have high expectations for ourselves. We are hard on ourselves and when we fail, we become depressed. A lot of the time, we have extremely high expectations of the people close to us. When they fail us, we are hurt and our relationships fall apart. We have high expectations of society. When society fails us, we want to just climb into a little bubble and run away. No one is perfect and that is what makes being human so human. Inherently we are just flesh and blood. We cannot expect anyone to be a machine; even machines fail. We have to weigh our expectations based on the limitations of our imperfections not our perfections.
Should we just lower our expectations?
Logically, so if we just lower our expectations or have no expectations, then we can never be disappointed. If we have no expectations of your friends and family, then if someone ditches you, then we will never be too upset or if someone surprises, you then you will never be too euphoric. No more broken hearts and blissful excitement. Basically let's just all be indifferent about everything. Be an unemotional rock. Have joyless but also unremarkable life. Again we are just flesh and blood. We are alive; emotional unpredictable beautiful messes. By being indifferent means being dead to everyone and everything. So if you have no expectations, you might as well be a zombie; living but not living.
Should we just have expect to get disappointed?
There are a pros and cons of expectations but in the end, we will have them. We are a big ball of random thoughts going a billion miles an hour. We can make expectations work for us instead of against us. Here's a couple ideas about expectations.
- Be realistic with your expectations. Set expectations of people and things that are based on well thought out knowledge, facts and evidence. Try to avoid basing your expectations solely on what others or what society suggest because media sets up commercialized expectations of life. Big house, new cars, hot spouse, and without ever working is great but who really lives that life? Life is not like an episode of Friends. People come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. Everyone who runs a marathon will always starts with their first mile. Set expectations that push yourself just beyond your comfort zone. Set expectations for others that are within their abilities and possibilities. Unrealistic expectations will always set ourselves up for failure.
- Be open about your expectations. We live in a a world of unsaid expectations. In business, all those expectations are written down in a contract. In our lives, unfortunately we do not need to write every aspect our relationships in a contract. We just assume things about our relationships. Perhaps because that is what we expect from ourselves and we expect reciprocity. Rarely do our expectations of ourselves align with expectations of that others have of themselves. Being more open about what we expect and help us have better relationships with people and society. We all know what we want from each other. If our wants and needs do not match, we should not be in a relationship. Tell people when you appreciate people. Share with people who you are and why you are so weird sometimes. Sometimes you need to be a little more obvious and straight forward especially around certain scatterbrained people (Unfortunately I am one of those people). Openness helps communication and helps you build a better relationship with the world around you.
- Be flexible about your expectations. The world has a way of screwing up. Life is a constant tragedy with climatic problems and solutions. Expect our expectations to be broken, crushed and smashed to a trillion pieces. That black swan of life is always lurking. Accept this and make new expectations. If things go well then let's celebrate. If things do not go perfectly, then let's do better next time. The great thing is our expectations are more like clay than concrete. Thank goodness that our minds and expectations are moldable. Take Bruce Lee's advice to "be like water."