Are Your Expectations Making You Unhappy?

People often come to me to sort out whether what they are expecting of themselves, a relationship or a job is reasonable. Managing expectations can be challenging. I have seen this to be an issue through-out my years in business. The 12 step Programs do well in addressing this issue. They teach people to live life on life’s terms, which is to accept things for what they are and adjust your expectations accordingly. Buddhism also talks about how expectations cause us to suffer. Thus, having an expectation will eventually cause us disappointment. So we are better off not having them. However, as human beings we naturally have judgments and expectations.

Indeed, I would argue that it is necessary for us to have realistic expectations and standards of conduct for ourselves and others. This allows us to know when to set limits and boundaries around our own and other’s behavior. So expectations are not necessarily good or bad. They only cause us to suffer, when they are unrealistic and we fail to adjust to the new information as it arises.

For example, if you agreed to meet your friend at 7pm and they do not arrive until 7.15pm. What do you do inside that 15 minutes of waiting? You can either adjust to the fact that they are not on time, or you can feel disappointed, angry, or disrespected. If they are continually late and do not apologize, you may want to reassess the friendship, assert your needs, meet them out somewhere that you enjoy being on your own for a while until they will show up or only meet them out if you’re with others etc.

Whatever you decide to do is based on the fact that your friend fails to meet your realistic expectation of being on time. Your friend may be the greatest friend in the world, but they usually run 10 to 15 mins late!  Knowing this about your friend means that it is probably unrealistic that you expect them to be on time. So even though it is socially expected that people be on time, it is unrealistic for you to expect this of your friend. In this case you are setting yourself up for disappointment. If you take it personally, you are overlooking the fact that some people including your friend have real issues around time keeping and punctuality. They are not this because they are inconsiderate of your feelings and are disrespectful. If they do it to everyone, it is not about you at all! Being punctual is a skill that they obviously struggle to learn.

This is just an example of how our expectations and others failure to meet them can upset us when we take it personally. Accepting the facts, who we are dealing with, how we want our life to be, assertive communication, boundaries, compromise and self-care are all necessary in navigating interpersonal expectations.  If you would like to find out if your expectations are realistic? If you need to learn to be more assertive or compromising, please call or email to schedule a complimentary consult.