When considering the often complex and intriguing variables affecting human behavior, if the exploration and reflection is deep enough, there are times when we hit a psychological gold mine -- meaning we come across a diamond of a common denominator which seems to be dysfunctional enough to wreak havoc across a number of different situations and experiences.
One of these diamonds is the notion of "expectations" and it surrounds us both consciously and unconsciously throughout our daily lives. Whether we "expect" subtly or directly, the fact remains that our frame of mind is affected by all kinds of hopes and anticipations. Being able to manage these pulls and pushes effectively is a valuable key to happiness, peace of mind and eliminating anger and resentment from our life.
That's because distorted or unrealistic expectations cause mischief, including emotional distress, relationship conflicts, stress, communication breakdowns, misunderstandings, distrust, and a whole host of other evils.
False expectations or dysfunctional dogmas -- defined as beliefs that causes a person direct or indirect mental, emotional or physical harm -- of which the person did not beforehand consciously consent to (Mindful Construct), can be broadly separated into three categories; general expectations, specific expectations and pre-programmed expectations.
General expectations are things such as "life should be fair," "people should be kind," "everyone is equal" and "we should respect all opinions." Specific expectations are related to your own unique circumstances, relationships, ambitions and future goals. Perhaps the most difficult of the three are pre programmed expectations. Throughout our developmental process, these destructive and unworkable views get imprinted on our psychological composition, affecting our decisions, perception and overall behavior. Usually learnt through parents, past experience, peers or the culture we live in -- these beliefs become deeply embedded in our cognitive capsules, rarely being checked or updated.
Other examples of unrealistic beliefs are:
- I should never trouble others with my problems or worries
- I don't expect anything from those I love
- I should never have conflicts with others
- Nothing I do will change the situation
- Life is just one long challenge
- The showing of any kind of emotion is wrong, a sign of weakness
- Everyone must like me or else there's something wrong with me
Most people don't stop and think about their expectations, let alone evaluate how unreasonable they may be. Usually, only when we're stuck in a rut, caught in a bind, or afflicted by anxiety or sadness, do people take a few steps outside of their emotional bubble to try and reflect upon where they actually are versus where they thought they were. Frustration therefore immediately sets in when your expectations do not match reality since unrealistic expectations are the root of disappointment.
Before we go any further, let's try a simple exercise. Grab a pen and paper and jot down some thoughts (try to be as specific as possible) in relation to the following questions:
- What expectations do you have about life, work, people and relationships? Where did you learn these? Put a circle around the realistic ones.
- What expectations do you have about yourself? Put a circle around the realistic ones.
- What expectations do you have about other people in your life? Put a circle around the realistic ones.
Once you have answered the questions, go through which expectations seem irrational and try to eliminate them from your daily mental repertoire. Instead focus on your reasonable expectations and exert energy on developing and working towards those goals. This will help you end the unattainable cycle of idealistic ideas.
So many emotional benefits can be achieved by trying to align your expectation with realistic outcomes. But this can only be done if we get into the habit of looking for solutions rather than drowning in situations. Maintaining a sensible and realistic way of thinking can only produce clarity, less confusion and encourage positive reinforcement through gradual and consistent attainment of set goals. The more you discover about your expectations, the clearer your interactions will be, resulting in more control and inspirational well-being.
Remember: Learning more results in living more... over to you ...