We humans love to conjure up expectations. These can range from things we expect of ourselves to things we expect of others. As soon as we’ve raised the bar of expectations, we’ve projected a “should” into the future. We have very little control over what hasn’t happened yet.
When we expect things of ourselves, we can at least have some control over whether we deliver or not. Of course, there are many unforeseen factors that can dash our plans. Without some understanding of variables and compassion for ourselves, we can end up in a state of self-recrimination. Too many of us fall short in our own minds and feel chronically miserable and unworthy. We can rationalize and deny, but generally we know when we’ve fallen short. We are defensive about our short-falls, even if they ‘re based on unrealistic expectations. That won’t keep us from setting another batch of unattainable goals and raising expectations further.
Expecting things of others can range from modest social amenities to raging entitlements. Since many of us are too afraid or unskilled to ask for what we need, we wait endlessly for a mind reader to show up. If we’ve had good parenting or an empathic friend or therapist, we may have experienced cherished moments of someone deeply listening to our unspoken needs. Generally though, most others are busy wrestling with their own expectations, to notice anyone else’s. As Michael Brown says, “No one is coming to save us,” meaning we’d better be numero uno on our own team!
Our level of life satisfaction is tied to our expectations of ourselves and others. We live in a culture of ever-escalating expectations. Here’s a little exercise:
Listing your priorities from highest to lowest.
Make seven circle graphs each representing a 24 hour day. All of them will represent a week of your life.
Now divide the circle graph up according to the priorities you created.
Does your time allotment match each category? In other words, if your family is most important, is that allotment the greatest after a week? If your health is most important, does that allotment match?
You might either need to switch your expectations, your priorities or your apportionment of time. Bottom line: If you have expectations of yourself and others without adequate time and resources to meet them, you will feel inadequate and anxious.
The amount of burnout, the number of stress-related diseases and the movement away from traditional materially driven lifestyles to alternatives speaks to compassion many feel for their struggles to meet their own expectations and those of others. At least we can re-evaluate where we stand and make some conscious choices.