Expectations: Is It A Human Weakness?

I happen to catch a glimpse of CNN news this weekend. There were two stories, I couldn’t erase off my mind and it prompted me to write today’s post.
1. Parents kill their 3 children and commit suicide. A couple poisoned their three young children, and then hung themselves from a ceiling fan because they were HIV-positive. (I wonder what went through the relatives minds when they stood by their caskets.)

2. Father kills daughter over divorce. The police said the father was angry because he felt his daughter was disgracing the family!

If I am to be cut and dry about these stories, I think it all revolves around expectations. First incident, the parents were depressed because they were not getting expected results from the medicine. Second, father’s expectations of his daughter (possibly, religious and cultural expectations). Isn’t it about how these people reacted to their expectations?

In the context of self improvement, much has been said about attitude, goals, productivity etc. Rarely does one find anything on “Expectations”. To write this post, I wanted some background information on “expectations” and how it affects people. But there were only a handful online articles, and most of them covered the “Law of expectations”; which says “whatever we expect with confidence, becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy”. Did the “Law of expectations” get it wrong? Let’s see.

Expectations Is It A Human WeaknessExpectations are often based on wanting things to be a certain way. As individuals we are mainly shaped by
1. What our parents expect
2. What our family expects
3. What our friends and colleagues expect
4. What we expect (money, career, entertainment etc )

In return, we also have expectations from them. Can you remember the last time you REALLY looked forward to something and it did not turn out as perfect as you anticipated? Was it because your expectations were unrealistically high? Or ..?

We all go through life expecting certain things. For example, for the hard work you put in, you expect a promotion and a pay rise. When you are in love, you expect it transform into "happily ever after".

expectations emotionWhen such expectations are NOT met, it can cause worry, anger, frustration and a host of other extreme negative emotions. On the other hand, if the expectations are met, it brings happiness, loads of smiles, certain contentment, and a host of other emotional highs.
This could be why something we get really excited about often turns sour; Or something we don’t look forward to, turns out to be quite enjoyable (well, most of the time!).

Happiness equals reality minus expectations ~ Tom Magliozzi
Now that's not to say that we shouldn't have any expectations at all! I don’t think any of us can go through life without expecting or having certain “wants”. You can’t get rid of expectation because it is, to a certain extent, a part of you. Perhaps, that’s what keeps the flame of life, alive.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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43 comments:

Peter said...

Expectations are what hinder us most. They are given to us by our parents or parental figures. It is natural to expect great things for a child. But life is as life is. Expectations are one possibility out of millions.

Great post.

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Stacey said...

I completely agree. I was told several years back to "get rid of expectations" to find happiness. When I thought about it and lived it, it made perfect sense. I do a lot of stress management workshops and always mention expectations - it's a new topic for a lot of people.

Avani-Mehta said...

Law of Expectation is right at it's place. The way we approach a person/situation does play an important role in how things turn out in future.

But that does not mean that everything that we expect will happen. Stacey hit the mark with - get rid of expectations to find happiness.

Annie Anderson said...

Hi Shamelle! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I really appreciate it.

This is an interesting question. I think you're right - we should have some expectations but there's a fine line between those which are beneficial and those which cause us pain.

I suppose we could argue that some are necessary and some are not. I think we must remember that expectations are just that - according to the dictionary, it means in this case - "the expected value of a random variable."

And there's the key - random. When things are random, we must remember it's almost like flipping a coin in that we might get heads or we might get tails. To expect something is one thing, to get bent when it doesn't meet our desired outcome, is another.

In any case, we can learn to be at peace with the outcome, regardless. It's always a growth and learning experience if we let it be. And ultimately, it's what we're here for - to grow and to learn.

~ Annie

Robin said...

Hi there Shamelle - I find it really works for me to not have too many (or any) expectations for lots of things - say, specific events, a relationship. This lets me be more "in the flow" - or something.

I do use law-of attraction-type expectations for the bigger picture - such as expecting to live somewhere I love, or to feel satisfaction in life. (I had never heard of the law of attraction until i started my blog - I used to just think we created our lives with our thoughts and emotions.)

I know the two strategies seem to contradict each other - but they don't really, for me.

Shamelle said...

@ Peter:Yes, some expectations are imposed on us by our parental figures. I think the society and the culture we live in also plays a part.

@ Stacey, Avani: Ideally, I don't think we can REALLY, get rid of expectations. To a certain extent expectations keep the life flame alive :-)

@ Annie: I couldn't have said it better.

@ Robin: I suppose at the end of the day, may be its a mix of the two strategies that's required.

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts.

rummuser said...

To act, we need thought, knowledge, experience, will, skill, the physical and mental strength to act. Once we have acted however, the results are not in our hands. Any one possible outcome is to expected and accepted. Exactly the same as expected, better than expected, lower than expected and completely different to what was expected. Whatever is the outcome, if we can treat it as a gift from Nature and avoid reacting to it one way or the other, we have won the battle of successful living.

I offer a quote whose authorship is unknown but it is relevant here.

"If there are people that you love, allow them to be free beings.
Give and don’t expect.
Advise, but don’t order.
Ask, but never demand.
It might sound simple, but it is a lesson that may take a lifetime to truly practice.
It is the secret to true love. To truly practice it, you must sincerely feel no expectations from those who you love, and yet an unconditional caring"

Ari Koinuma said...

Shamelle,

First of all, a good topic. I've been meaning to tackle this subject myself. Here's what I have so far:

-Disappointments occur only when one has expectations.

So does it mean that one should get rid of ALL expectations? I'd say no. It's another shade of gray. You ought to get rid of expectations that have high probability of causing disappointments and/or causing you to worry whether it'll come into fruition. A better way to go about it is to shift focus.

There are places where we can set visions of our future that is less fallible. For example, you may say you want a million dollars. You get a job and it pays 750k. Are you disappointed?

Or you say, I want a life where I don't have to worry about money. Fly first class, vacation with family, give a lot to charities. Now, this vision has a lot more within my control. I can change how I spend my money, for example. It's not infallible, but it's less so.

That said, for example, with my kids I do clearly have expectations. And I make it clear to them. I expect them to be a conscientious citizen of the world. I expect them not to get or get anyone pregnant before getting married/committing to a long-term relationship. I don't control my kids' lives, I realize that I have a chance of getting disappointed there. If I didn't have proper self-control, I suppose I can get angry and disappointed enough to resort to violence. I will never, though, because my expectations are set for their own good, not mine. If they turn out to be a Robin Hood, rob bank and give the money to the poor and be proud of their actions in jail, that's their choice -- and my disappointment shouldn't prevent them from doing what they believe in doing.

This is more semantic than anything else, but I do hate the word expectations. With the law of expectation you're referring to -- I'd want to call it intention. It puts the focus a bit more on your actions and less so on it having to come true the way you expected it.

Ehh -- I'm rambling now. I haven't put my thoughts quite together yet, but I will one day and I'll post it on my site. This is an important topic. Getting it right has a potential to eradicate much hurt and fear from one's life.

ari

T Edwards said...

I can't imagine a life without expectations. I think expectations go hand in hand with goals and are a means to gauge our performance, progress, drive, and tenacity. I expect positive things to occur in my life and I will do all in my power to insure it.

I love your blog.

T

Kelly@SHE-POWER said...

I think expectations are one of the biggest causes of unhappiness. We expect results, behaviour, love, feelings, loyalty - in effect we expect so much these days both from ourselves, life and others.

When we put expectations out there we really do set ourselves up to be disappointed. It's like the New Years effect. I remember getting so worked up about New Years Eve when I was younger and it always disappointed. Now I just go with the flow and refuse to have expectations.

Isn't it the Dalai Llama who tells us not to have expectations for this very reason? It means we put our potential for happiness on external factors we cannot control.

Now, if I could just figure out HOW to relenquish all expectations because from where I sit now it seems an impossible feat.

This was a really different read and new perspective. You're right, no one talks about this.

Thanks.

Kelly

Shamelle said...

@ Rummuser: "Once we have acted however, the results are not in our hands." So.... true.

@ Ari: You make a good point.
"my expectations are set for their own good, not mine". Sometimes, I feel that the expectations others have on us is for their own good.
For example, the case where the father killed the daughter, would have possibly been to "save his face". Hm....

@ Edwards: I admire your positive outlook on the matter.

@ Kelly: HOW to relinquish all expectations.... I doubt that's there is a "success formula" out there. May that's what keeps life interesting.

Naren Rajamani said...

Hi everyone & Shamelle,
I have gone through your various parts of the blog. I found this topic of 'Expectations' very interesting and have a few words of my thoughts to share with all of you.

The feeling of expectation is to be redefined with a word called 'HOPE'. Every individual if is alive is with the ray of 'HOPE'. If expectation can be replaced by 'HOPE' in all the actions he proceeds, he will not feel the touch of failure even if he fails. He still will continue with the 'HOPE' and think of other possibilities to achieve. Expectation is barricaded with the two choice gates of success and failure. But if the individual is carrying the 'HOPE', it has no end. So in the process he also learns from his steps of action oriented in the process and continues living. So I feel instead of expectation if we could replace it with the 'HOPE' we never tend to get into unhappiness. We become a continuous learner until we achieve.

So I always say to all my friends and family,
'Even if you loose everything in LIFE, Never loose the HOPE.'

I learnt it from my father and I follow this.

Thanks Everyone.

Lydia said...

This is my conclusion on expectations.

We will always have expectations. It is the prediction of the (often uncertain) future based on what we know and the passed, in order to make ourself feel more certain in the face of the unknown.

However as with the best food it is always the combination of ingredients that make it great. For me faith is to expectations as butter is to bread.

Be clear about what you want, what you expect, the outcome, expect the best, but then know that what ever happens it is always for the best and if it does not work out how we expect at the time, there is a bigger plan in place that we may not yet be able to see that is greater then the picture in our minds.

P.S. Just to put a spanner in the works on what Ari said, my sister got pregnant really young, with some random guy at a festival. Fast forward 6 years, she is now with that guy, very happy and they had a second child together as well. Everything can be good it is just a question of perspective is it not?

Anyway thanks everyone for helping me get my head around this one.

anna said...

The laws of nature are built every fiber of our being, especially in the center of each of the energies of billions of energy centers throughout the body! In other words, the expectation of ourselves to ourselves to follow the laws of nature. Therefore, our conscience is always present when we do something against the law of nature.

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libido verhogen said...

Even I agree with this post

Anonymous said...

Appreciate everything, expect nothing.

synonomous with

reality - expectations = happiness

I would exchange the word happiness for tranqulity or contentment; more realistic and possibly a superior state of being.

r4 3ds said...

The classic example of this is the bullying boss. He sees that his staff are less than perfect, so he shouts at them. This may motivate them over the short term, but is also likely to lead to all sorts of passive aggressive behavior. Worse, he'll probably lose his best people.

r4 card 3ds said...

This is an interesting question. I think you're right - we should have some expectations but there's a fine line between those which are beneficial and those which cause us pain.

r4i card said...

This is an interesting question. I think you're right - we should have some expectations but there's a fine line between those which are beneficial and those which cause us pain.

r4i card said...

To act, we need thought, knowledge, experience, will, skill, the physical and mental strength to act. Once we have acted however, the results are not in our hands.

r4i card said...

I think you're right we should have some expectations but there's a fine line between those which are beneficial and those which cause us pain.

Anonymous said...

Yeah! The more we expect the more we get hurt. So, its better to be in balance so that we can avoid frustrations and disappointments. We should be optimistic cause every things happens for a reason and purpose.

Anonymous said...

I want out! I've grown tired of living a life of expectation. I can't get mad because I'm expected to be a certain way with a friend. I have to spend holidays with the family three hours away because this is what's expected of me; and I'm expected to be nice to the jerk that married into the family. Expect, expect, expect.. I want out!

vegas wedding chapels said...

I completely agree. I was told several years back to "get rid of expectations" to find happiness. When I thought about it and lived it, it made perfect sense.

concrete batch plant said...

However as with the best food it is always the combination of ingredients that make it great. For me faith is to expectations as butter is to bread.

concrete portable batch plant said...

I think it all revolves around expectations. First incident, the parents were depressed because they were not getting expected results from the medicine.

concrete batch plant said...

I know the two strategies seem to contradict each other - but they don't really, for me.

concrete batch plant said...

I found this topic of 'Expectations' very interesting and have a few words of my thoughts to share with all of you.

concrete batch plant said...

Expectations are what hinder us most. They are given to us by our parents or parental figures.

concrete batch plant said...

The way we approach a person/situation does play an important role in how things turn out in future.

data entry india said...

You can’t get rid of expectation because it is, to a certain extent, a part of you. Perhaps, that’s what keeps the flame of life, alive.

Anonymous said...

it is an interesting subject. we always get upset and change to negative state if we dont fulfill the expectations. our life is full of expectations till we die. But we need to balance it between reality and expectations and compromise ourselves and feel happy, otherwise over stress and heart attack.

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