“I don´t have any expectations”. I often hear that: From clients, my children and myself. This is so wrong: We always have expectations but often we are not aware of them.
Expectations are everywhere
When I analyse a situation that went wrong, I often discover expectations that were not fulfilled.
What are expectations?
We all have an idea how things should work. We create problems when other people don´t behave according to these ideas. This makes us frustrated and disappointed. And this is often the basis for conflicts.
When we become more aware of where expectations are hiding we can do a lot for our inner and outer peace.
Where can expectations hide?
We have expectations in every aspect of our lives. We can find an equal amount of expectations for us. In:
- Private Life
- Public transport
Identifying and letting go of expectations can be difficult
- We have learned to react automatically to the often unspoken expectations of our parents.
- This way we are trained to expect that our expectations will be met.
- We don´t learn anything by the many disappointments we experience and simply put the blame for our frustration elsewhere.
Signal words for uncovering expectations
When you hear these words with an exclamation mark (!) or use them yourself you can be pretty sure that there are expectations involved.
- Should (You should have…!)
- Have to (You have to understand, that…!)
- But (But, everybody has to…!)
- Anyway (Anyway, we still have to…!)
1. Example of uncovering expectations: Garbage Separation
Waste separation is a big issue in Germany. We separate our garbage in 4 different containers:
I have the expectation that my family separates our garbage diligently. I have given them an example for decades. Sadly my expectations are often disappointed:
- When the best of all husbands is not in the mood he puts the wrappings that belong in the container for plastic in the rest garbage.
- My children sometimes randomly put the garbage anywhere and pretend not knowing where it belongs.
This makes me crazy!
I have tried to explain and to scold. This did not help at all. The result was that everybody was annoyed. I sat down with my husband to analyse the problem. We found out:
- I would like to have the garbage separated properly.
- My family does not like to feel bossed around.
Now I resort the garbage afterwards when I need it. I have to get used to 95% being enough. There is more peace in our home now concerning garbage separation. This feels better for everybody.
2. Example: Reliability
When I promise something, I try to follow through on that promise. When I run into difficulties I give an early warning. Being reliable is important to me. Interestingly I automatically assume that everybody has the same attitude towards reliability. Of course that is not the case:
Members of my family often make promises they don´t keep. This is hurting me because I feel I am not important enough for them to keep their promises. I question my own self-worth when this happens.
It took some time for me to figure out that my family does not make that connection. I am important for them whether they keep their promises or not.
To avoid disappointments I did almost everything at home alone for a timeframe. I did not want to keep doing that. Now I am working on becoming more conscious of my expectations and on letting them go.
Living your own values
These examples show that I implicitly expect my family to live my values. Even though I am aware that everybody has different values and is entitled to them, I am still disappointed when they don´t live mine.
Strategies to work with your expectations:
1. Getting aware of expectations
It is still hard for me to identify all open and hidden expectations in a situation. The only way to get better at that is to keep at it and work on being more aware in daily life.
Example: Creating choices
I want to reduce the plastic waste my family produces. I include everybody in this endeavour: I tell my family that we are starting an experiment. There is no pressure to take part. The family members react positively.
We have tried and switched from liquids to bars of shampoo, conditioner and soap. Only one family member is not with us yet. But that is okay. I did not have any expectations and I am positively surprised.
3. Staying calm
I try to make my requests calmly. I use expressions like ”It is important to me…”. That way even when they don´t agree with me my family is much more willing to support me. It is the same the other way round, also.
What happens when we bitch and moan?
We show that the others are not right and not enough. They are deficient. Who reacts positively to being belittled? Why do we even expect to be heard?
I still catch myself trying to get my expectations fulfilled by bitching and moaning; without success, of course.
Expectations people have of me
When I realise that somebody expects something of me that is unclear or I am not inclined to follow I ask for clarification. Getting it out in the open is an important step.
I ask my children: What exactly do you want from me? Sometimes they don´t know themselves. They only have the vague feeling that Mom should make everything better.
2. Expectations of partners
My husband reacts badly to pressure and expectations: He ignored our 20th anniversary, which hurt me a lot. When I was able to talk calmly about it, he explained that he hates these musts. I get that. Sadly he did not communicate that before.
Since then I have celebrated our anniversaries alone. I spend this day reminiscing about the many years we have spent together. This is important to me and I can do that alone easily. I only had to get rid of the belief that you can only celebrate anniversaries as a couple.
3. Expectations of myself
I still have problems with too high expectations of myself. How do I know that? There are too many times I am not content with myself. I still have to do some more work on self-acceptance.
What I have learned about disappointed expectations
- People rarely want to hurt me.
- They may have other priorities or values.
- We are not on this earth to fulfil the expectations of others.
- We are here to get to know ourselves so we can create our reality LINK in an efficient way.
Why I love experiments
With experiments I trick myself. Why? Experiments don´t have a clear outcome. That means I have less expectations to begin with and much more fun.
Having less expectations causes more surprises
The more I manage to let go of expectations the more I am positively surprised.
How does that work?
I set a goal and start small actions. Often other people get involved at some point. I try to reduce my expectations of them as much as I am able to.
This way they can contribute more in their own natural way and help me to achieve my goal more efficiently. Sometimes the end product looks very different form what I have envisioned. But this works very well for me. It is fun, I am more in my flow and create more ease.
My calendar is full of video-sessions of my son and his homework. A year ago that would have been unthinkable. The Corona-Lockdown is a good example that expectations only make life complicated.
What are your experiences with expectations?
Pictures: Pixabay and private