Updated: May 19
Do you have too many expectations? Or are your expectations too narrow? There is a big risk with either of these approaches. With too many expectations there is a risk of being easily disappointed. For example, you do things for others and are disappointed when those same individuals don't return the favor. Or, you're a high performer and you expect others to be high performers and are frustrated when they don't deliver at your standards.
When our expectations are too narrow, we risk overlooking possibilities. Others may describe a less than desirable experience in an industry you love and you start believing this will be your experience too. Or you attend a meeting to present a proposal on which you invested a significant amount of time and energy, and expected full support, only to have it challenged and criticized.
Have you noticed how you feel when your experiences do not align with your expectations? Have you felt disappointed, hurt, irritated, or even angry? These feelings can influence your thoughts. For example, you might think "I guess I'm not very good at writing proposals," or "Maybe I'm not cut out for this industry." Neither of these thoughts are likely true. Feelings and thoughts initiate behaviors and actions. You may be defensive with others for criticizing your hard work, want to give up, or at the very least not be terribly excited to try again.
How conscious are you about how people or situations outside of your control get in the way of your confidence, how you see yourself, your feeling of fulfillment, or simply experiencing joy in the moments? How about that driver that flips you off or that server at your favorite restaurant who forgot you're there? Are you paying attention to the little expectations you have of others and yourself everyday?
This past Mother's Day weekend was spent at my sister-in-law's home in a small lake town in Minnesota. My husband and I love to visit for a respite away from the noise of the day-to-day. It's a cute little town with so many quaint shops that the tourists, including me, just eat up! Most establishments are locally owned, which I like to support.
This Mother's Day was a dreary, damp day. I don't know about you, but when I escape from the normal daily grind and the weather is less than desirable, I grab a blanket and book, watch a movie, or go into town to check out the cool shops. Well, I thought, I am in need of a new pair of shoes for the gym. So, my sis and I headed to the shoe shop, which I discovered had really cute shoes when I purchased a pair last year.
When we walked through the front door, my sis went her way and I went to the women's athletic shoes.
A gentleman approached me and engaged in a brief conversation to learn about what I was looking for. I shared that I was looking for a pair of athletic shoes and also mentioned, "my feet are finicky." True story! He willingly took on the challenge to find a pair of gym shoes that would meet my needs. He spent a bit of time educating me and found multiple options for me to try out. He definitely knew his stuff.
Do you have a day where, it's just not gonna happen? I finally threw in the white towel and surrendered to the fact that today was not the day. As soon as I said "today's not the day," the service light switched off in a second. I mentioned how much I appreciated his efforts (I really did) and how I would help clean up the shoes except I didn't know which boxes to put them in. There was no eye contact, no more words, and no acknowledgement of my words. He was done with me.
There are numerous reasons as to why the service switch flipped so quickly. I didn't ask for the service and would have been fine exploring on my own, but this individual offered his time and energy to help me. He likely expected his outstanding service would be reciprocated with a purchase. When that purchase didn't happen he was clearly annoyed and I was the recipient of that. I also had an expectation that his service excellence was not based on a purchase so the treatment seemed unfair.
This situation took up space in my head for the following few days. Awkward is the word I would use to describe how I felt in the moment. Uncomfortable is another. Perhaps offended too. To me, this was an opportunity to build a relationship with a customer (me) that would end up in a purchase at some point in the future. I did not understand the sudden cold shoulder.
The feelings I experienced led to less than positive thoughts about this gentleman and I was thinking about whether I wanted to patron the shop in the future. My energy would have been better spent on other things, but I allowed my expectations of someone and something, of which I had no control, take over.
In reflecting on this situation further, I finally decided to feel compassion for this individual. "Why compassion?" you ask. Because one does not know others' situations and experiences. His behaviors were not about me. For me to have an expectation that everyone will be on top of their game at all times is unfair. I'm certainly not always on top of mine.
Next time you find yourself annoyed, angry, hurt, or defensive because your expectations of someone or something were not met:
Reflect on your reaction.
Identify what you were thinking and feeling.
Take note of your behaviors and actions that followed.
Take a breath.
Just be aware.
Once you strengthen your awareness muscle, you can consciously try something different in the future.
Practice a "no resistance, no anticipation" mindset. Reduce, shift, or eliminate expectations of yourself and others and receive what comes your way. You don't have to like it, but you will feel the difference!
Ask yourself, "What do I expect?" Too much? Too narrow?
Make a shift.
I'm on a mission to help as many people as possible be and live as their authentic selves, which is the ticket to fulfillment, happiness, and possibilities. After fifteen years of thinking about writing a book, I finally wrote Unfinished: Unlock Your Superpowers, Live with Purpose, and Discover Unlimited Possibilities.
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