How can we responsibly handle our expectations and thus increase our satisfaction in life? The hotel is crowded and loud, the desired job comes in a package with a complaining colleague, the attempts to eat healthy fail, a friend refuses to help at the last minute, the husband has forgotten the anniversary.
Unfulfilled personal expectations towards ourselves, others, relationships, and life circumstances are the main cause of disappointment, anxiety, anger, and depression. How do we react when our expectations are not fulfilled?
3 ways to handle responsibly our expectations
Expectations are related to desires. We expect something to happen or not, or a problem to be solved in a specific way at a certain time. Expectations directed to God, people, and relationships, are related to our desire for them to treat and love us and to meet our needs in a certain way. Our desires and expectations are always an expression of our basic attitudes, ideas, and beliefs. They show how we think about ourselves, life, relationships, marriage, friendship, happiness, God, etc.
The first step, when we are struggling with frustration and disappointment resulting from unfulfilled personal expectations, is to acknowledge our feelings and thoughts. They show us that there is a problem. And then start with taking responsibility for them. The next steps to handle responsibly our expectations are acknowledgment, re-adjustment, and communication of our expectations.
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Acknowledgment of our expectations
Here are some basic principles in the process of acknowledgment, as well as questions to ask:
- For everything and every known person or situation we have expectations (vague or fixed, spoken or unspoken).
- These expectations determine how we will respond to or experience a given situation or relationship. That is why when for example we respond with frustration, it is good to stop and think about our expectations.
- What do we expect and why? Our personal expectations always stem from our beliefs and attitudes. Both the beliefs and the specific expectations originate from something. This might be past experiences, goals for the future, or personal problems and shortcomings.
- Where does this expectation originate? Is this mine or did I adopt somebody else’s expectation? Very often we have adopted expectations of other people, especially towards ourselves. They can come from parents, relatives, friends, work environment, etc.
- Is the expectation realistic? Very often we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves, our life, other people and the world. These are expectations that do not take into account the reality and come from a wishful, idealistic notion.
- Is the expectation acceptable and reasonable? This is not an easy question. In answering this question we must consider all the particularities of the situation or the person, assuming that no one is perfect.
The responsible handling of our expectations increases satisfaction in life.
Re-adjustment of our expectations
Re-adjustment and change constitute the next phase in handling our expectations. It includes:
- Abandoning certain expectations that we have recognized as not our own, or not in accordance with our basic beliefs, or as unrealistic and unreasonable.
- Re-adjusting of some expectations. It is useful to lower our expectations towards ourselves and others and to accept our shortcomings, weaknesses, history, past and life phases. Let us refuse to judge and look with compassion. (Luke 6:37) Moreover, let us not make others responsible for our own happiness.
- Forming new expectations that reflect the change in our views and standards towards oneself, others, and life. God’s word is the best means of testing and renewing our thinking. As a result, we form new expectations based on the right perception of ourselves and life in general. (Romans 12:2)
Communication of our expectations
Communication is the most important step, especially in interpersonal relationships. Here are some basic principles:
- People, even the closest, are not telepaths. They can not read our thoughts. As much as they love us, as much as they understand us.
- When we have a specific expectation, and it is neither unrealistic nor unreasonable, it is necessary to share it in an appropriate, undemanding way. (Proverbs 15:1) This enables the other person to decide if he can and/or want to meet our need or fulfill our desire.
- We need to give the opposite person the freedom to say “no” without changing our attitude towards this person. Ultimately, we also want to have the freedom to say “no” to the expectations of others without being rejected as a result.
Which of these steps is the most difficult for you? Which unfulfilled expectations have brought you the most disappointment? Do you know that that BibleGateway.com is a great place to read and study the Bible? I would be happy if you comment and share this post on social media.