Change Your Expectations to Boost Your Joy
Expectations — they are normal and we all have them.
In fact, we have them every single day.
We wake up and expect things to be similar to the way they were yesterday.
We get thrown off when things get in the way of what we think should be.
I like the cover picture of the ducks because they are perfectly lined up. There’s an expectation that they will be aligned and in order. That is often how we feel about our lives.
If someone were to come along and turn a few of those ducks around so they were facing the other direction, many of us would notice that something wasn’t right. There are a large group of us that would want to turn them back around to match the other ducks.
That is what we do as humans all the time. We see parts of our life that aren’t in alignment with what we think they should look like and we do everything we can to bring things back to a place where they meet our expectations.
We want things to look the way we think they SHOULD look.
For example, we wake up and it’s raining on a day we planned to go to the beach. Disappointment.
Or we have a date arranged with a friend and she cancels. Disappointment.
Or we have a perfectly good phone and we accidentally drop it in water then we are all of a sudden without (or is that just me?). Disappointment.
We expect something in our life to look a certain way and we attach to that belief. When things turn out differently than we expected, we feel out of equilibrium.
We have ingrained in our minds that things need to look one particular way and we are disappointed when they don’t look like that. Some of us have pretty good attitudes about things when they don’t turn out the way we want, however I believe this is the exception to the rule.
Maybe you are one of those people — if you are, I commend you for being great at going with the flow. My husband is this type of person and I admire him for it.
However when there’s someone driving slowly in front of him when he’s in a hurry or he has expectations of closing a deal and it doesn’t work out, I see a different side of him than the ‘flow with’ guy I know so well. Why? Because these things are more important to him than missing a beach day or having a friend cancel on him. If you are similar to him, you may be able to let most things slide off your back, but when it really matters you don’t like unmet expectations either.
A different example: In your life you may be struggling with some type of problem or issue. You want support from your partner or a close friend. You want support in a certain way.
You want them to show up at your house and pour love into you until you feel better.
You want them to pick up your spirit by saying the right words at the right time.
You want them to be focused on you and leave their own world behind for a time until you feel better.
These are expectations.
We have an idea in our head about how we want support and we haven’t communicated it to the other person. Even if we do tell them what we need, to expect them to do things exactly as we expect is quite unrealistic.
There are countless examples of unmet expectations causing us pain and I’m sure you can think of your own personal examples of how this looks in your life.
The idea behind changing your expectations to enhance joy in your life is in understanding that when we have certain expectations, we create a box that everyone needs to fit into for US to be happy.
“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” — Donald Miller
When we have realistic expectations, we can remove the box and take people for who they are and what they do naturally. We give them freedom in their own lives to be who they are and we also feel better internally because we aren’t faced with unmet expectations.
This doesn’t mean that we have extremely low expectations, think negatively in case things don’t turn out the way we want and allow ourselves to be treated in ways that aren’t good for us.
What it does mean is that we know our limits and we don’t project what we feel we need on others so that we become disappointed in the end.
We create equilibrium within ourselves so we can let go of what others say and do. We take responsibility for our own feelings and set lower expectations of what others should do to make us happy.
“When someone sees the same people every day, they wind up becoming a part of that person’s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
We create high expectations for ourselves so that we can strive to be better and we lower our expectations of what we desire from others to feed us and make us feel whole.
“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.” — Stephen Hawking
Your expectations of others have an impact on them too.
An article on Entrepreneur.com explained the following: Since the 1960’s, Harvard research has shown the power of our beliefs in swaying other people’s behaviour. When teachers in the studies were told that certain (randomly selected) children were smart, those kids performed better, not only in the classroom, but also on standardized IQ tests.
This is one of the many reasons it’s important to have high or positive expectations. We get the most out of other people when we believe in them.
Research shows that this happens because when we believe in someone we:
- treat them better than people we think will fail
- give them more opportunities to succeed than we give those we think will fail
- give them more accurate, helpful feedback than we give others
- do more teaching because we believe it’s time well spent
In the medical world, patients who have low expectations for restorative procedures or treatments tend to have poorer results than those who expect success, even with regards to well-established treatments.
If a doctor uses a treatment with a clinically verified high rate of success but presents it in a negative light, the probability of a negative outcome increases.
Your expectations, more than anything else in life, determine your reality. When it comes to achieving your goals, if you don’t believe you’ll succeed, you almost certainly won’t.
At the same time, we need to be aware of the expectations where we hold on to the outcome because this will take away our joy and make life unnecessarily difficult.
Be wary of believing things should look a certainway. When you put people or circumstances into a box, you will often find yourself disappointed.
Leave room for things to not be as you think they ‘should’.
In doing this, you will find much more joy, as you will no longer hold tightly to your expectations having to be met. Allowing freedom for things to happen as they will creates much more joy inside us.
“The key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be.”- Unknown
It also leaves room for things to happen in ways we never could’ve dreamed of…
…circumstances that are even better than we imagined they could be!