3 Ways to Handle Responsibly Our Expectations

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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3 Ways to Handle Responsibly Our Expectations

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.

Your turn

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.

God's word is the best means for forming new expectations based on the right perception of the reality. #bgbg2 #Godsword #expectations



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14 Replies to “3 Ways to Handle Responsibly Our Expectations”

  1. I think my expectations for myself are usually much more firm and more than I can or should handle. If it were someone else I would tell them they are doing amazing and not to be hard on themselves. That is my biggest problem with expectations, secondly, I’m not always good at communicating my expectations to my husband when I’m flustered. Great advice thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Jenn! It is a daily process and progress learning to acknowledge, adjust and communicate our expectations. I need to remind myself daily that I am still learning and growing in that area.

  2. I like the way you include adjustment of your expectations. Monitoring and making revisions is so important. It’s okay to revise! Thanks for the perspective and insights.

    1. Thank you, Lisa! Yes, we tend often not to see the need of adjusting our expectations. Accepting that our expectations need correction is a good step away forward.

  3. For too many years I thought people just knew what was “expected” just as I knew. It takes a lot of seeing just how different each of us are to understand that my expectations are not a given and that I may not always understand others expectations of me. Even with my husband it took a lot of years to realize I need to express my expectations or I am setting myself up for failure.
    Great post, great truths. Many Thanks 8)

    1. Thank you so much, Debra! I can relate! Yes – even in our closest relationships where we “expect” that the people know us best and we know them well, and that everything goes a certain way – processing and communicating expectations are not granted. It is something we should acknowledge and constantly seek to improve with God’s wisdom and grace.

  4. Great post! Even though I know that having wrong expectations can cause pain, I never really thought much about managing mine! So, my first step is really being aware of my expectations in any given situation–sometimes I uncover this if my feelings are hurt and I realize it is because someone else did not respond/act/do what I wanted or in the way I wanted. Then, I must repent of having such wrong expectations–that are usually about me getting what I want. I have a long way to go, but thank God, I am not where I used to be.

    1. Thank you for your honest comment, Sandra! You nailed it – learning to manage our expecttaions is a long way to go. Nevertheless, it is good and encouraging to measure our progress and celebrate the growth we have in this area.

  5. So true. We have no right to get bent out of shape if we have failed to effectively communicate our expectations. But I do it all too often. Thanks for this thorough post!!

    1. Thanks a lot for you comment, Liz! Yes, we tend so often to blame the others when they fail to fulfil our expectations. It is always better to examine first our own behaviour and communication and ask God to show us where we fall short.

  6. I feel like I spend 1/2 my life Re-adjusting, or better yet re-evaluating, my expectations. I actually have a letterboard in my home right now that says something about if you want to be happy just lower your expectations. Funny, but not really funny all at the same time. Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Patsy! I can relate! It is not funny to lower our expectations just to feel more satisfaction and avoid disappointment. However, I think God invites us to develop higher expectations towards Him, His plans and purposes, and most of all towards His promises and Word. In my opinion the issue is not lowering the expectations but having a balanced outlook and expectations rooted in the reality of God’s loving presence although acknowledging the brokenness of the world we are living in.

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