The Road to Hell is Paved with Expectations
The phone rang in the middle of the day as I was fielding emails, rechecking client budgets and working on closing out the year at my company. The call was from a friend of mine who said she had an emergency.
By the sound of her voice, I felt it must be something that required my immediate attention so I put everything aside for a moment to listen. “I’m so angry” my friend exclaimed. .≤My mother’s best friend came down to stay with her for a few days and while she was here, she never lifted a finger the entire time! My mom had to do everything! Don’t you think that’s just rude on her part? I do.’
There it was .¨ the “emergency” – anger over an unmet expectation that fueled bad feelings, unhappiness, resentment and stress.
We often expect people to act a certain way or do something the way we think they should, but they don’t always accommodate us. And when they don’t, we unleash a tirade upon them that often parallels earthquakes and tornadoes all rolled into one. Someone we loved yesterday becomes the jerk of a lifetime today and someone who needs our understanding and compassion receives only verbal abuse and resentment. We say things like “I am so disappointed in you” and “Why didn’t you do it the way I told you to?” We think this is the way to communicate and interact with each other, as if it’s normal. We make excuses by saying that we do this to help someone get motivated or to teach someone what to do. Really? When has being demeaned, judged or blamed ever motivated you to do anything except feel worse about yourself?
What is it that makes us expect anything of anyone only to judge them harshly when they don’t meet our expectations? In a nutshell, poor training and fear. We have been raised with a negative and disapproving thinking system that provides us with no real foundation and no way to feel safe. In fact, deep down we often feel out of control and afraid. In an effort to regain some level of control, we project onto others what we want to happen. When things go as we expect, we feel a little safer and a little more secure. However, when things don’t go as planned, we judge and blame the other person as if they are the problem. In order to make sense of our chaotic, fragile world, we must project the problem onto someone else. If we see our expectations as the problem, our misperceived foundation shakes and the way we think about ourselves and others feels even more out of control.
We also expect certain things to happen in a certain way in our own lives. For instance, we decide that we will finally be happy when this or that happens. And when things don’t go as planned, we beat ourselves up and feel even worse about our lives. All of this adds unnecessary and preventable stress that eats away at our health and happiness. Sounds a little whacky, doesn’t it?
The Stress of Expectations
Expectations are all about us, not about the other person. We make up expectations in our minds based on what we have been taught about the world, but we have all been taught slight variations of this information. For any one of us to hold another person to the thoughts being made up in our head is completely absurd. No wonder expectations lead to so much frustration, disillusion and stress.
So, just what are expectations? They are strong beliefs that something will happen or be a particular way at some point in the future. Expectations are also a belief that someone will do or should do something. Notice the word belief in these explanations. The problem is that beliefs can change and they can be disputed. It’s obvious then that expectations are a moving target and to follow them sets up a grueling life with the potential for sleeplessness, exhaustion and separation from loved ones. In addition, being negative, feeling terrible about things, worrying and bad mouthing others is a lot of hard work. None of it is in alignment with who we truly are and being out of alignment leaves a wide berth for dis-ease and illness. All of this adds up to lots of stress. The good news is we don’t have to live like this.
We have the power to change anything we wish to change!
Be Less Stressed Today
Expecting people to act a certain way is a major source of self-created stress in our lives, but with awareness and practice we can reduce this stress. Awareness is a wonderful tool because it allows us to see thoughts, beliefs and situations in a new light! “Practice makes better”, as my editor and her husband say around their house. With practice, we can let go of the old habits, the old thinking system and the old expectations. Refrain from expecting the awareness and practice to look a certain way. Allow both to unfold in a magical, practical way that you may never have thought of before! Be willing to be pleasantly surprised.
We can use awareness to assist us in reducing our stress by being aware that other people think differently than we do. That may seem logical right now as you read that sentence, but applying it can be a different story. Be aware of this logic when you fall back into the old habit of placing your expectations on someone or something else. Notice the peace and freedom you get from letting expectations go.
Next, realize that as philanthropic as our motivations may be to assist someone or to teach them something, deep down we want things to look the way we expect them to so we feel more control in our own lives. From this point of view we spill out judgment in the form of thoughts or words, but all of it is low or negative energy and it isn’t truly helping anyone.
Third, be aware that our expectations and reactions are truly all about us. When we react to anything, it is usually because we don’t like something in us. We judge another as if to get rid of our own bad feelings about ourselves, but this never works. We can’t give away our issues. We must stand and resolve them. Also, in the ego, our false self, we are focused on getting what we want with clear disregard to what anyone else wants, how they feel or what they need at the time. We are starving for safety, a solid sense of being, less chaos, validation and approval.
We react strongly when we don’t get what we want because not getting it delivers more threat to our out of control, nonsensical existence in the egoic thinking system. The truth is our safety and foundation can’t be found outside of us. Everything we are looking for is already within us. We just aren’t taught this.
Finally, we must be aware that we don’t like change. In fact, we’re afraid of change. Our training has left us with the current framework of fear and lack so, to our ego, change just means more fear and lack. For example, when we see someone doing something we’re afraid of or that we wish we could do, we react saying they shouldn’t be doing it or we degrade what they are doing in an effort to discourage them and make ourselves feel better. This reaction is our way to keep things the way we think they should be with little or no change. Deep in our hearts though, we desire nothing more than a change from this life of chaos and stress.
Open Your Mind and Your Heart
To reduce stress and practice letting go of expectations, open your mind and open your heart. Open your mind and understand that different people know different things and experience life differently from you .¨ and this is okay, this is normal. Think and act from your heart and not from your head or your ego. Your heart will always provide you with the truth about everything.
Be willing to determine the motivation for any expectation that you push onto others. There will most likely be something in you that needs control, superiority, safety or that is afraid of something. With practice you will become aware of the reasons for your expectations. Then you can choose to let go, be free and leave the stress behind.
Practice not taking anything personally since nothing is. Everyone has their own ideas about life and no one is right or wrong. Realize, too, that everything happens for a reason and you may not know what that reason is right now or perhaps ever, but that doesn’t invalidate the reason or the event. Our egos know a lot less than they think they do.
Where can you start? You can start anywhere, just start somewhere. Don’t stagnate in archaic thought processes that don’t work in your favor or in the favor of others. Be willing to be aware and then to make a conscious choice to do something different than you have always done. You may find a new perspective that is not only refreshing but gives you more peace and improved health. No expectations, of course.