The development of expectations is natural and inevitable. Our entire lives are a pile of evidence. We use this evidence to try to discover how the world works. We thumb through the facts and relationships and experiences of our past to make sense of the planet we live on.
To put it mildly, it is frustrating when our expectations are not met. We try to manipulate the world to work things out in our favor. What good is that pile of evidence if we can’t use it to our advantage? But then, suddenly, inexplicably, something or someone does not play by the rules.
Conflict, depression, and disillusionment are some of the side affects that happen when our expectations are not met. Our emotional maturity is measured by how we handle unmet expectations. Just as inevitable as our expectations is the reality that they will often be left unmet. The way we react can either destroy or strengthen our relationships. They can bury us. Or they can be the soil on which intimacy grows.
First Thing First
The first step to harnessing expectations is to acknowledge that they are there and there is nothing inherently wrong with them. Naming our expectations is an important aspect of self-awareness. It is vital that we not shrink from the realities we are thinking or feeling.
Too often our approach to expectations is to try to silence them, get rid of them altogether, or pretend they don’t exist. This isn’t helpful. It just compounds the problem. It would be like having a strategy for cleaning the mess in your living room without acknowledging a tiger is loose in there.
Expectations are nothing to be afraid of. We have to name them and own them. Giving them voice allows us to then assess whether they are helpful or unhealthy. We spend so much time trying to silence our expectations, afraid there voice will bury us. But expectation is the kind of evil that speaks loudest in silence.
Make Your Choice
So, the inevitable happens. Your expectations are unmet. You thought one thing was going to happen but it didn’t. You had plans for the day and circumstances are making those plans difficult.
Unmet expectations elicit an emotional response. But how we handle our emotions is the vital choice that changes everything. We act as if our behaviors are justified by circumstance, as if there is nothing to be done other than what we do.
Choice is the power that fuels our living. Unmet expectations will always cause our mood to take a hit. But we have a choice to persevere. We have a choice to adjust our expectation. After all, all of these happenings are another file of evidence to add to what life has accumulated so far.
Expectations are like a horse on a lead. They need some room to exercise so that the animal stays healthy. But left unchecked, they can cause chaos and danger. We fight learning. We press back against growth. Our human nature is protective of what has already been established. However, defensiveness and entitlement bury us in a stubborn avalanche of self-serving perspective. If we want to experience the fullness of life, we have to learn how to interact with unmet expectations.