Have you ever thought, “If I just lower my expectations, I’ll never be disappointed?”
As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve had my fair share of unrealistic expectations and yes much disappointment as a result.
You know that feeling when you go to an expensive restaurant with fancy descriptive words on the menu, and you expect the food to be mind-blowingly amazing? You expect to get what you pay for, right?
Then you get the food, and the portions are so teeny tiny, you’re wondering if you accidentally ordered off the kids menu!
You take a few bites and think… ehhh it’s just okay.
Yep, fancy restaurants have many a time disappointed me. I expect a lot and they underdeliver.
But what’s at the root of our expectations? What purpose do they really serve?
They serve our desire for happiness!
I just want to enjoy my meal at the restaurant. I want the food to taste good, so I’ll feel happy about my experience and making the choice to go there over all other options.
What about when you clean the house? Do you expect your partner, family, or roommate to be appreciative?
Yep, I certainly do! When my boyfriend acknowledges it and thanks me, I feel happy because my hard work had a purpose, not just for me but for someone else. Now he’s happy too, being in a clean organized home.
Yes it can be dangerous to have expectations about how other people act, but it’s also a reflection of our standards.
I choose to surround myself with loving, kind, grateful people. People who express genuine appreciation when I clean the house or do something nice for them.
My expectations ensure this, because anyone who doesn’t meet these standards isn’t going to be in my life for long.
At this point, can we agree that there IS a positive side to having expectations?
That they support our standards and desire for happiness?
Well we talked about expecting the good. But what about expecting the not so good?
No I don’t mean sad Eeyore always expecting some tragic event to destroy his house again.
I’m not suggesting pessimism and anticipating the worst.
I’m talking about recognizing the natural rhythm of our lives.
Would you expect to be perfectly happy and completely at peace every single moment of your life?
It sounds like a nice thing to strive for, but for me I know that’s not realistic.
#1 – I’m human. All the self-care in the world won’t prevent stressful events from happening. Yes I can choose how to respond to stress, but I don’t expect to completely eradicate it. The stress response is in my DNA, and it’s actually there to aid my survival.
#2 – I’m an Earthling. Nothing naturally-occurring on this Earth is at a high point all the time. The seasons and temperature change throughout the year, the ocean tide ebbs and flows, the moon waxes and wanes, the sun rises and sets.
Our lives are like this too, ebbing and flowing over time.
This is hands down one of the most helpful lessons I’ve ever learned.
I first noticed this in my job when I worked at a software company.
I was on quite the roller coaster ride for several years. I’d have a week where I’d have to do something incredibly daunting and frustrating.
I’d get so stressed out over it and think, “This job sucks!!! I am so not happy here. I can’t take another day of this!!!”
But over the next several weeks, I’d work on tasks I absolutely LOVED. I’d enjoy collaborating and joking around with my team. It was fun! I’d feel so fulfilled.
I was ultimately very confused about whether I loved or hated my job.
But then I noticed the cycle. Just like the tide and the seasons, the way I felt about work would shift back and forth.
The low points never lasted long. They were only temporary.
The good times would flow in and last longer.
Once I was able to recognize this, it became more bearable, and I didn’t stress as much.
I knew to expect the lows, and I knew to expect that they’d pass.
But I also took control of the situation as much as I could and asked to do more of the tasks I enjoyed.
Disclaimer: There might be times where the lows really are too stressful and it’s beyond your control to improve the situation. For example, you might have a boss who talks down to you in front of others (been there). In that case, perhaps you really do need to change the job or situation. But in non-extreme cases, so often we jump ship before we even try to make it work because we expect perfection all the time.
As for me, well of course I did end up quitting that job to become a coach, but it wasn’t because the lows were too unbearable. It’s because I followed my heart.
You can apply this same concept to relationships, family, money, and so on. By recognizing the natural rhythm, the ebb and flow, we can expect to be a little stressed at times, we can expect it won’t always work out as we’d like.
Then when it happens, we aren’t so triggered. We don’t stress as much.
Because we know those feelings or circumstances won’t last.
By expecting the highs and lows, we allow ourselves to ride the wave, going with the flow.
Your Turn: Where do you recognize the natural ebb and flow in your life? How will recognizing this cycle allow you to move through it with greater ease? Leave a comment below!