01/27/2014 12:11 pm ET Updated Mar 29, 2014

The Key to a Better Day? Stop Setting Yourself Up for a Miserable One

Last week found me lunching with a friend who was ranting about her husband. The evening before he'd failed to arrive home on time. Which meant there was nobody to watch the kids. Which meant she had to miss her yoga class.

Now this friend has been married for 30 years. Three. Zero. And I have heard this tale -- and many similar ones -- hundreds of times.

So I asked her: "how many times has your husband come home on time for this reason?"

She didn't hesitate. "Never! Not once! I always have to scramble for a Plan B or just miss the class altogether."

"Then why would you expect him to do it this time?" She paused, thought for a second and shrugged. I shrugged back. "I think you need to change your expectations."

I submit to you that most, if not all of us set ourselves up regularly by expecting things we know, deep down, are not going to happen. It happens in both our professional and personal lives:
  • We finish a big project and expect our down-to-business boss to tell us what an amazing job we do for the company. Even though he's never said anything like that to anyone before. Ever.
  • We call our very competitive and insecure sister to tell her about our new promotion and expect her to shout with glee. Even though she's always ignored our successes in the past.
  • We show up to lunch and expect our friend to arrive on time. Even though he's been late to every lunch you two have ever had.

So what happens when these things don't happen? We get mad, get frustrated, take it personally. It messes with our minds. It messes with our day.

Yet we do it anyway because we feel like these things should happen. Well, maybe they should. But let's get real. Chances are huge -- almost guaranteed -- that they won't. And you know it because they haven't before. And some things just don't change.

So stop setting yourself up. Stop thinking things will be different this time. Make your day better. Change your expectations.

To be clear, I am not saying to change your aspirations or dreams, or to accept bad behavior from people. I am saying that your day will be better if you understand that there are some universal truths to it, and then you plan on how to manage them effectively.

I ask you, what are your life's universal truths?

What are you expecting from your staff or your boss; from your friends or your family; from your diet; from your old computer or your new puppy that, in reality, is not going to happen?

Knowing your truths is the first step. Accepting them means a guaranteed better day. Figuring out how you'll manage them is how you make your life better and more successful in the long run.

And that's an expectation you can have.