I’ve started to internalize the importance of controlling my expectations.
Why? Because expectations control our lives. They cause anxiety, disappointment and negativity.
Often, we don’t choose our expectations. It’s easy to get conditioned by society; expectations are easy to acquire but difficult to control.
Instagram gives us expectations that our lives should be filled with nice beaches, expensive food and fireworks.
Schools are also a great example. We condition students (and convince them) to spend hours studying for tests, staying up until silly o’clock so they can get a 96%. Were the students naturally born with this expectation of high grades? Probably not. We’re a product of our environments; hyper-competition and stress breed these expectations.
Expectations often cause unhappiness. They make us feel guilty, annoyed and stupid. They seep into every aspect of our lives.
If we CAN control our expectations, we CAN control our lives.
Almost everything you think you should do came from another source. The thoughts in your head aren’t your own, neither are your goals.
👉How expectations affect our everyday lives
There are three main types of expectations that slap me (and you) in the face.
Surprises = something different than your expectation. (I know what you’re thinking; Isabella, surprises can be fun! Birthday parties, proposals, gifts all make for joyous experiences. And you’re not wrong, they can be good.)
Surprises can also be bad:
Complaining = a situation that surprises you in a negative way; it’s so negative that you feel the need to express “anger”. For example, I was talking to someone a few weeks back, and they had such negative vibes. They were rude, offensive and unkind; I felt angry by what they were saying so I complained about this person to my trusted friend. My expectation was the person would be kind and trust-worthy, but that wasn’t the case.
Disappointment = something that doesn’t have the result you expected. For example, I was disappointed when I tried asking someone for something, and they said no.
Our material desires (cars, houses, watches, etc.) are expectations. Our reactions to situations (i.e., feeling angry while we’re in deep traffic) are a result of the delta between what you thought would happen vs what did.
The expectation of identity = we feel we have a certain “essence” that we must stay true to. A personal expectation of how we should behave\act.
This can be helpful (i.e., could give you a purpose) but it also has negative implications. For example, I really enjoy being helpful, this forces me to make a ton of commitments\do a bunch of favours. Sometimes, these tasks really don’t align with my goals, but since I value helpfulness I constantly feel obligated to follow through with my commitments because saying no is the hardest thing in the world. I can’t negotiate contracts without having a mini panic attack, I don’t voice my opinion directly or do what I really want because I don’t want to lose my “identity” or “reputation”.
Identity is how we expect ourselves to act (and how others observe ourselves); which, again, boils down to expectation.
We each put so many limiting factors upon ourselves. It’s crazy.
Work \ Motivation
Burnout = caused by the expectation that you can handle a lot of things, but you really can’t.
Imposter Syndrome = not feeling like you can live up to everyone's expectations. I feel this one a lot: because I’ve had some media appearances\attention, expectations for my success seem insanely high, and sometimes I doubt my abilities to achieve it.
Instant gratification = the expectation of a reward after you do something (and if you don’t get some “reward” you might feel like a failure or you might lose momentum).
Having a low-risk tolerance = the classic fear of failure: you don’t want to not meet the expectations (for whatever you’re pursuing), so you mitigate risk.
Not being open-minded = the expectation that your ideas are always right (ego plays a role here too).
Depending on other people = you expect everyone will do their part. (OK, this is another one that can go both ways. The positive is delegating tasks, and working well in teams.) This can be harmful when you have too much dependence on other people such that you lose some independence. The expectation that when you’re in trouble, someone will help you out; when you’re lost, there will be direction; when you’re unmotivated, someone will motivate you.
This type of expectation makes the loneliness feel 10X worse.
For example a few weeks back someone I knew committed suicide. It was shocking, and I didn’t really know how to deal with my thoughts. I felt sad and wanted the people around me to make me feel better, but it certainly wasn’t the place or time to give Isabella warm and fuzzy remarks. I felt more lonely than ever those few moments because I expected other people to know what to do, but no one did.
If there’s one thing we’re great at it’s letting expectations control our lives. Often in negative ways.
Why were we never taught to handle expectations?
If this is the thing that runs my life, how come I have no idea how to tame it?
- Stop us from learning (we become unmotivated, arrogant, or too attached to our identity and we don’t want to take risks)
- Make us defensive (expecting to be right is the #1 barrier to learning)
- Create unneeded struggle (comparing ourselves to other people because they are our expectation metrics).
… this list goes deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Controlling expectations has 5 main implications:
Curing unhappiness in moments + things
- If you always expect insane traffic, bad weather and slow service you’ll never be disappointed… because you expected it. You’ll avoid all those dumb bursts on anger\frusteration around you.
- If you thought like this, you’d always be positive: lowering your expectations lets you stop complaining and stop becoming disappointed in tiny things. I’ve tried to completely cut out complaining; this has caused me to focus on all the good things.
- You depend less on other people (and they, therefore, don’t impact your happiness as much). By having lower expectations for the people around you, you become more independent and you start to value others’ opinions less. You stop drinking the potion of abiding by other people’s expectations.
TLDR: you stop letting dumb things eat you alive.
- Choosing your expectations helps you better avoid burnout, imposter syndrome and reward-based motivation. If you become self-aware of what your expectations are and why you have them (i.e., school forces it on you; because of your friends; because of social media…), you can then decide if you want to continue enforcing them. A lot of time burnout happens because you do too many things that don’t align with your values or goals.
- Adjusting your expectations (and overall understanding of why you’re doing something) brings more motivation. It’s different for all people. But, as an example, I recently realized there are a few things I do just to feel belonging\identity. They don’t necessarily make me fulfilled, which often causes me to lose motivation to do these tasks. Now that I’m self-aware of the expectations I put on myself to complete these things, I can do something about it. Before I didn’t know these expectations existed.
TLDR: create your own drive when it comes to what you want to do (don’t correlate your expectations\drivers with other people; create your own metrics, have your own desires).
Note: there’s definitely going to be some overlap with other people; they’ll still motivate you to some extent. But, by identifying your expectations you’ll be able to optimize your motivation.
- Close-mindedness is the opposite of a growth mindset. You can’t develop if you expect you’re already the best version of yourself.
- If you expect to be at the top of your personal development game, you’ll be less open to feedback (whereas if you expect feedback you’ll grow wayyyyyy more).
- Similarly, if you expect to get results right away in your personal growth journey, you’ll also get unmotivated.
- As a result of getting rid of reward-based expectations: you could become more self-less by shattering expectations. A self-less person by definition doesn’t expect immediate results for themselves. They help others. You’ll develop your character by letting go of expectations.
This is similar to character, just a slightly different focus. There are 2 main roadblocks:
- You cap your abilities by thinking you’re the best at something (arrogance). This is the fear of being wrong\realizing you’re actually not that good.
- You’re too scared to take on a “beginner’s mindset”. This is likely influenced by identity + how others perceive you. Maybe you’re the smart-successful friend; you wouldn’t want to show you’re not affluent in a particular skill. You’ll also be less likely to ask for help, guidance or feedback.
TLDR (character + skill development): expectations make you close-minded; you need to have a growth mindset to develop something. You should only expect: feedback, not being good at the thing (to begin with) and that results won’t come right away.
Social + Communication
- Working in teams better: removing the expectations that everyone immediately understands your plan\vision. (I’m someone that has way too many ideas to articulate, and when in teams I tend to be very very loud. Often, I forget that not everyone speaks “Isabella.” Because I subconsciously expect everyone to understand me, I often get frustrated\impatient when the plan doesn’t go as follows.) By losing my expectations of how humans should behave, I can work in groups better and make everyone understand “isabella”.
- Acknowledging people have different life views. This is hard for me as I’m extremely vocal with my thoughts, and I tend to be sooooo energetic that I rarely stop & re-evaluate my situations. This definitely ends up frustrating people, but, my expectation (inside my head) is that if someone has a problem, they’ll just tell me, just like I would do. But that’s often not the case. My reality is not THE reality.
- Choosing your identity: it’s easy-peasy lemon-squeezy to conform to social expectations that might not feel authentic to you. Are there social expectations that cause you to behave a certain way?
TLDR: it’s easy to forget that people are different, and they might not understand you; so, communicate accordingly. Also, be aware of the (social) expectations surrounding you.
I could write these lists for days.
I created a mental model to understand any implication because everyone has different expectations\experiences with expectations.
Here’s what I do when a “negative” situation occurs. 👇
Now, with an example situation:
If we think about our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to actively train expectations that make us feel bad.
Think about hyper-competitive schools, social media\advertising, and having all the people around you constantly complain.
There’s different ways to go about training your expectations, but the first step is always realizing they need to be changed. If you expect they’re already perfect, they’re never going to change.
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