Things don't always go as planned

I had an expectation this week. I calmly endured my routine dental checkup fully expecting to get a clean bill of health – as usual. I was shocked to be told by the gleeful dentist that I would need a very expensive crown. Ouch!

Think of the last time you felt disappointed, heartbroken, aggravated or upset. Was it because you had an expectation that something was going to turn out a certain way . . . and didn’t?

Yep, we’ve all been there. Probably more times than we’d like to admit, our actual experiences fall short of our expectations.

Some low-key, annoying examples:

  • The highly touted hair stylist who butchered your haircut.
  • The award-winning movie that you thought was awful.
  • The new outfit that looked perfect online, but when it arrived in the mail, well, let’s just say it didn’t enhance your best features!

Some bigger-deal, more excruciating examples:

  • The dream home that turns out to be an endless money pit.
  • The ideal job that comes with a tyrant for a boss.
  • The new marriage that makes you wonder “Who is this person?”

Now, let’s acknowledge that our expectations don’t always turn out poorly. Many really do come true. Some even surpass our wildest hopes. So it’s important that we maintain our optimistic nature.

But how do we avoid the pain and negative emotions caused by our unmet expectations? It seems unrealistic to think we should go through life without ever expecting anything.

Maybe we can start by understanding the typical cycle:

Ingrained Beliefs + Thoughts = Expectations


Actual Event Happens –> Evokes Reaction/Emotions

By understanding that the urge to set expectations is a part of human nature, we can practice making more conscious choices in how we handle them. We can learn to manage our expectations in a positive way.

Try the following:

  1. Live in the present. In other words, try to minimize thinking about the future “what ifs.” As much as possible, stay right here, right now.
  2. Carefully observe. Notice when you’ve unconsciously set a particular expectation. Just be aware and mindful that it’s there.
  3. Seek to understand. Examine what life experiences, beliefs and thoughts are forming and driving your expectation.
  4. Identify faulty expectations. Determine if your expectation really makes sense. Question whether your built-in storyteller is working overtime.
  5. Change your perception. Step back and clarify your expectation from a different, more objective perspective.
  6. Accept whatever happens. While you can’t control people or circumstances, you can control how you respond to them.

Be hopeful, not helpless. You don’t have to be a victim of your unfulfilled expectations. Learn to focus your energy on the things you really can control. Then peacefully go with the flow on the rest.

Free yourself from expecting things to be a certain way. It’s a given that your expectations will run amok at times. But YOU have the ultimate power to choose how you respond to life.

How do you handle your unmet expectations?


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