Have you ever felt the burden of an expectation?
Was it an expectation that you placed on yourself? Or was it that someone else, such as your partner, family, or even society, placed on you?
Today’s post is all about expectations and how harmful they can be. However, with a little adjustment from one of my favourite tools – reframing – we can turn the situation around to our benefit.
Why Do Expectations Suck?
An expectation is a strong belief that a certain outcome will happen. For example, we may have an expectation that things will go our way in a particular scenario.
The issue with expectations is, we do not have control over the outcome.
There are many wise words spoken about expectations and why they can be harmful.
Expectations ruin relationships, Neale Donald Walsch
I get this. I can see how times I have thought my husband should behave in one way, yet he behaves in another, that I have become frustrated. It causes tension. Even if I don’t voice the frustration, I am still experiencing a simmering sensation inside. Which is not healthy. If I do voice the frustration then it causes a confrontation or angst. It is usually over something minor in the grand scheme of things.
If you expect nothing, then you can never be disappointed, Tonya Hurley
This is the opposite kind of wisdom – by expecting nothing, there is still an expectation. It is just lowering the standard of what you are prepared for. Therefore, if the scenario does not turn out in the most fortunate way, you are less likely to experience discontent with the outcome, as your heart had not been set on it.
I’m not as much of a fan of this type of perspective. I feel it is a negative way to view the world.
Peace begins when expectation ends, Sri Chinmoy
This is a much more constructive way of looking at expectations, or non-expectations.
When we are content to let things be, and not be concerned beforehand with the outcome, then we can appreciate the journey as it unfolds.
How Expectations Have Impacted Me
I recently turned 35.
A few years ago, I thought by now I would have been in a different stage of life.
I had expectations. These expectations existed for a long time. I had expectations that by the time I was 35 I would be a mother. I expected that I would have had reason to read the book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting (a good kind of expectation).
I thought I’d have a little family, with 2, 3 or even 4 kids. Ok, so 4 kids is not so little, but when you come from a large family like I did with 5 kids, then anything less than that number feels small.
I just turned 35 and I am not a mother.
I have been nervous about turning 35 for a long time.
I had my own expectations. Society has its expectations.
There is so much literature and advice about that fact that you need to have your kids, be done and dusted with pregnancy and childbirth, by the time you are 35. I understand and appreciate the medical reasoning behind this.
It was my own, and others’ expectations that I would be in a different point of my life by now.
I remember a year ago on my 34th birthday I cried. I felt I only had one year left to try and start a family. I really felt the pressure that I was running out of precious time.
My husband and I tried for a few years to start our family. It hasn’t worked. And while it does not matter who is ‘at fault’, because we are a team, I still feel troubled that I am the one who has let the team down.
What I have learnt after years of trying, is that this is something I cannot control.
I have an expectation for an outcome, of a beautiful little family, but it is not a goal I can set out to achieve.
I can put in effort. I can exercise, eat the right foods, take multi-vitamins. I can go to all the appointments – medical and traditional – to get help.
I can try and do a lot to achieve this expectation. But ultimately, I do not have control over the outcome. Any attempt to stack the deck in my favour will still never guarantee an outcome.
Once I had this realisation, of not being able to control the outcome, I knew that it was time to walk away from this dream.
It would only ever be a dream. And so, in a way I guess I have achieved it – a dream to have a family. It is just a dream, not a reality.
Turning it Around
After this being my story for many years now I want to leave this issue behind me.
I would rather embrace what life has to offer, than lament what it has not provided.
The funny thing with expectations, they are actually quite similar to goals. But there is a very big distinction.
A goal is an outcome we can work towards, whereas an expectation requires the cooperation from another person, thing, or event, in order for our desire to eventuate.
An expectation is a wish, or a thought that something else will happen in the future. You will move from point A to point B. Things will be different. Things will be better.
A goal is also a desire for a better future. You want to move from point A to point B. The difference is, you rely on only yourself, and your internal drive to make it happen. Yes, there are other factors that will come into play. But you are not solely reliant on an external-reality for your goals to be realised.
For me, it is now about looking at what I can control.
I can still dream big. I just need to ensure that the dream has an element of reality to it. And something that I can work towards.
I want to look forward. I can see a bright future. And I am going after it.
My Top 3 Tips to Overcome Expectations and Achieve our Goals
1. Know what it is you truly want
Search inside your mind, your heart, your soul. What have you always wanted to achieve for your life?
Knowing what we want is the first place to start. Once we know, we can then believe. We can visualise, we can be grateful for already being on the path to achieve our dreams.
2. Work out the how of it
There’s many paths we can take to reach the same outcome. Consider which paths rely more on our own attributes, drive and determination, than the cooperation or assistance from others.
These paths are the ones that are more aligned to being steps to achieve our goals, than expectations we can become burdened by.
3. Get started
The only way we can get from point A to point B is to start somewhere. Even if we do not yet have all the courage, or all the skills, we can start.
If we don’t feel we have all it takes yet, then we can start small. Or we can invite others to help us. But the key is to make it an invitation, not an expectation.
Ultimately, we must build our confidence to start on our path. And the best way is to get started. Ready, set, go!
Change Our Thoughts to Change Our World
Instead of me feeling sad that my expectations have not been met, and I am now 35 and childless, I am choosing to be happy. I am 35 and living my life confidently. I am on my way to realising my true potential.
I have skills and I am using them to get me closer to my goals.
I’ll need confidence, which I am working on. I’ll need persistence, which is happening. Most of all, I need action, which I am taking.
None of this relies on an expectation from another. It is all me. It is my goals to own.
I believe 35 will be my best year yet.
And isn’t that what we all want from our life? For our best years to be ahead of us? Each year improving on the last.
How can you reframe your expectations and turn them into goals?