“Happiness depends not on how well things are going but whether things are going better or worse than expected.” Robb Rutledge
A few years ago, an old and very good childhood friend of mine told me some exciting news – she’d got a job working in the same city as me. I was as delighted as her; so we could meet often almost every day.
On her first day, we headed off to lunch together and I gave her the lowdown on the best sandwich shops. On the second day, she went out with the two women who sat in her office instead, but we hooked up for a trip to the coffee shop after work. On day three, I didn’t see her at all. And that was that. From then on, she would just WhatsApp me and makes excuses how busy she is in her new role.
I was disappointed; I enjoyed spending time with her and was looking forward to having someone to talk to at work who knew me in other contexts too. The fact is, I expected more from her, and I couldn’t help but take it personally. But I didn’t want to mention it, for fear of coming across as a bit desperate.
Looking back, it occurred to me that the problem was perhaps mine. Were my expectations of her too high?
I came to an understanding that we all have expectations in our lives. I believe one of the keys to happiness is within the controlling of your expectations of people. Simply, no expectations, no disappointments. Often we believe that we will be treated the same way we treat others. But, unfortunately, this does not always happen.
The reason that beliefs and expectations affect results in our lives is because they impact how we behave; it is not just the thought, but how that thought affects our behaviour that matters. If we think we can achieve something, we are likely to put in the necessary effort, problem-solve to overcome obstacles, and stick till we get the outcome we set out to achieve.
So, how to avoid having unrealistic expectations?
- Never assume.
When in doubt, ask and be vocal. Never assume people around you know what you want. Ask your friend, workmate, you child…ask what it is they want or need in any particular situation. What is it that you like or envision to have; it’s so easy to assume that your partner is going to want their preferred meal for their birthday dinner. But really they might just want to take a quiet walk.
- Enjoy what your life looks like today.
All too often we compare ourselves to others and get disappointed in one way or another. Then roll in those fantasies that really are just expectations in disguise, “As soon as I build my house, I’ll be happy.” “Once we get married, I’ll feel content.”
This isn’t about expectations of others; this is about having expectations of yourself.
Expectations are not goals. Goals are great; but live with what you have today.
- Manage Other People’s Expectations.
Managing our own expectations is difficult hence managing other people’s expectations of us is more challenging. However, it is absolutely worth investing your time and energy into.
In business- in Life – Over-communicate. Let others know exactly when you’re available or not, your timetable, etc. Don’t leave anything up to chance. It is important to share all things and more with your friends and family.
If your grandmother knows when you are coming to visit and exactly how long you will stay, then she is less likely to anticipate you staying longer and feeling sad when you leave.
- Show Expectations Who’s Boss
Remember…goals are not the same as expectations! Goals are based upon reality and facts, expectations are beliefs based upon hope. Once you understand the role of expectations in your life, you’re set on the right way.
You’ll feel empowered once you are implementing the strategies, for both eliminating expectations of others, and for not allowing others to have expectations of you.
Now it’s your turn-
What ways have you seen unrealistic expectations hurt business and personal relationships?