We've all heard the cliché line, "No expectations, no disappointments." Needless to say, this was my 23-year-old-self's mantra -- I lived by this because I felt the weight of disappointment in a major way in nearly every relationship I had. After a year of continuous disappointment, I was very over being let down by others.
Through time I learned the unfortunate reality that disappointments are a natural part of life even if you have zero expectations. It's impossible to avoid that feeling regardless of how gut-wrenching it is.
To suggest that we don't set expectations isn't real, either. Whether we're ready to admit it or not, we assign expectations to people, relationships, business project, etc on a daily basis -- more than likely, the expectations are what we have of ourselves in that particular role (And not for nothin', but by even saying "I have no expectations" you're assigning an expectation...oh, the irony).
The myth is that we believe "no expectations" is the problem, but really the lack of communication, the absence of clarity and insufficient self-awareness are the most salient concerns.
Let's explore the benefits of expectations and disappointments and talk about practical solutions to finding expectations that work best for you.
Expectations create healthy emotional boundaries.
Boundaries are based on what we do or don't like and what we accept or don't accept; they keep us safe from harmful things... like the lack of expectations.
By making expectations clear we concurrently build healthy emotional boundaries. These healthy emotional barriers allow us to engage with people or relationships that help us grow and disengage with harmful relationships or behaviors.
Furthermore, creating expectations hold people accountable for their own choices. When there are a lack of expectations, one person ends up taking on more of the emotional and/or behavioral ownership. Ultimately, the imbalance causes a lack of personal growth and development of one party and leaves the other person involved carrying the weight of the relationship.
Disappointments are a natural part of life.
People often use "no expectations" as a way to protect themselves against potential disappointments; however, that disrupts the natural order of life. Michael Josephson says it best:
In the natural order of the world, suffering is random. Bad things happen to good people just about as often as they happen to bad people. We have not been given a shield protecting us from misfortune, but there is within all of us waiting to be discovered, the strength to deal with misfortune, to overcome it, and learn from it so we can still find love, laughter and joy despite it.
As much as we want to avoid the emotional pain of disappointment, we actually cannot avoid it. In fact, when we try to cut out perceived negative emotions we simultaneously cut out all possibilities of positive emotions. Most feelings are an innate, automatic response -- we can't choose what we feel, but do get to choose our actions in light of how we feel.
Expectations are kind and healthy.
Have you ever worked at a job where the expectations were unclear? Have you ever been a part of a project where there was zero direction? If you have, there is generally one outcome: chaos and frustration.
Brené Brown says it best, "Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind." This holds true in every single type of relationship whether it be familial, platonic, romantic, business etc.
Expectations are kind because they're clear and honest; they unveil genuine intention and consider the emotions of others. In fact, expectations allow freedom and choice.
For example, if you and your romantic partner don't have an "expectations" discussion and assume you both share a general understanding about fidelity, there will be major disappointments if someone cheats. However, when there are clear expectations about what each considers acceptable and unacceptable about involvement with others, you're able to choose (of your own free will) whether or not you can live with those terms.
Therefore, expectations create freedom and encourage choice -- no expectations generates mistrust and a lot of potential disappointment.
Disappointments are helpful.
People struggle with emotions because we have been conditioned through time to put them into categories: good or bad. However, emotions are neither good or bad; they're neutral.
Consequently, the feeling of disappointment has been categorized as a "bad" or "negative" emotion, so we try to avoid it at all cost. Be that as it may, disappointments are some of the most useful emotions to feel.
When we feel disappointment, that's a little red flag letting us know that maybe someone has crossed our personal boundaries or maybe we are acting outside of our core values. As a result, we're able to use the disappointment to grow and develop into who we want to be by adjusting our behavior accordingly.
So what is the solution?
1. Negotiate expectations in every relationship.
2. Find relationships that are on the same page as you.
3. Be willing to compromise and to be flexible.
4. Identify 3 non-negotiable expectations; these usually align with your core values.
5. Talk about how meeting or not meeting the expectation makes you feel (emotions are important).
6. Be gentle in negotiations; this process can be challenging.
Also consider this:
I don't want anyone to miss out on loving, encouraging and uplifting moments because we're so focused on a rigid set of expectations.
Expectations can also be flexible and you can even have an expectation of yourself, "I expect myself to live in this moment and enjoy the little things." Giving ourselves permission to have an open mind and to be in the moment is very important for healthy relationships.
I hope you have the best Friday, my friends. I expect you (HA! every pun intended) to love yourself and others today.
LOVE YOU MEAN IT,