Escaping the trap of Expectations – A Guide to Setting Healthy Expectations

‘Expectations hurt’ is something you and I have heard and said like a million times. But have you ever given a thought to the nature of these expectations?

As I was preparing for my Personal Growth Plan, I noticed the role of expectation in our lives. We expect something from someone and they don’t fulfil it or the other way around. Is there a way around this? There sure is, just keep reading.

In this post, we will discuss about other people’s expectations from us as well as our expectations from others. Both these things can cause difficulties so let’s take a step towards understanding and overcoming these traps of expectations.

If you are in a romantic relationship or if you are single who wants to work on their love life, I have created A Guide to setting Healthy Expectations. You can get that guide by signing up here.

Our Expectations from Others

Have you ever been disappointed due to breaking of expectations? I am guessing a yes here because we all have been there.

Here I am talking about the slightest expectation such as you expect your neighbour to be quite when you sleep or you expect the next cab to stop for you. Everyone feels disappointed when such small expectations are unfulfilled.

Now imagine the magnitude of disappointment when bigger expectations fall apart. For example, you expect your spouse to give you a gift on your birthday and they show up empty handed. That is no disappointment, it is outright hurt. Let us find out ways for escaping expectations.

A Life of No Expectations

Expectations hurt – so do not expect anything from anyone. Is this even possible? Let’s be real and face the fact that there cannot be a life with no expectations. You can try to trick your mind that you don’t care what they do and don’t do. But the reality is that you are just avoiding your feelings and they will burst at some point. You cannot train your mind to stop expecting altogether.

Finding the Balance

So can I say that we have established the fact that we cannot live a life without expectations? So then what is the way around that I have been talking since the beginning? It is finding the balance!

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We need to start making conscious efforts to avoid over expecting but maintaining your standards. If this sounds like ‘good to read but difficult to implement’ kind of thing, let me give you some practical tips.

  1. Think from the other person’s point of view. Whenever you expect something from someone, think to yourself ‘Is this fair?’ or ‘Is this person capable of doing it?’
  2. Set Standards. You need to convey what is the minimum thing that you need from a person. For example tell your friends that you expect them to at least communicate if they can’t make it to the party.
  3. Be compassionate. Compassion is a rare emotion in day to day life, especially when you are disappointed. So next time someone breaks your expectations, make sure to take a moment and think why did they do so or do they have a genuine reason?
  4. Be independent. And I am not talking financially or materialistically, I am talking emotionally. Do not let your happiness be dependent on others. I will be shortly sharing a post on How to be emotionally independent so make sure you subscribe to my list here.

Others’ expectations from us

The burden of other people’s expectations can be really heavy and self-consuming. When your parents expect you do go to this college and your friends expect you to go out with them every night or your boss expects you to work overtime then chances are you won’t find space for yourself.

Escaping expectations that others have from you can be a challenge. Can we make them stop expecting? No, I don’t think so. It is a fact that we cannot change people and their mindset unless they themselves try.

Basic and Value-added Expectations

Before we get into overcoming expectations, let us first understand the two types of expectations which are Basic Expectations and Value added Expectations. Basic expectations, as the name suggests, are the bare minimum things that you ought to do. For example, your partner expecting you to take care of them when they are sick is a basic expectation. But if they expect you to get them breakfast in bed every Sunday, it is surely value added. Value added expectations are anything that is not general or natural. We are looking to overcome these value added expectations and not the basic ones.

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Escaping Expectations

Escaping these expectations is a lot of inside job and a little outside job. I am going to share things that I observed, implemented and worked for me. People will influence you with emotional leverage, monetary gain or validation. For example, a woman leaves her job to take of the home – emotional leverage. An employee works overtime – monetary gain. A girl dresses up in “cool clothes” – validation. Here are 3 things that will help you overcome these expectations.

  1. Know what you want in life. Do not live a life only for others and do only those things that others want. I am asking you to be rude or selfish, all I am saying is that don’t loose yourself in the trap of expectations. When you have clarity about what you want, you can be more expressive.
  2.  Set Boundaries. Let people know what is acceptable to you and what is not. You can simply do this by telling them right away or even denying to do what they expect with genuineness. You are not letting other people down, you just have different priorities.
  3. Change your mindset. Do not let validation keep you in an unhappy job, friend circle or anything uncomfortable. You need to understand the long term effects of fulfilling such expectations on your mental health. At the end of the day everyone wants to be happy and trust me, validation does not breed happiness. I know validation is important but running behind it is stressful.

Practice these simple things to escape the traps of expectations. Set healthy expectations as well as boundaries for healthy relationships and a blissful life. Also consider reading How to live a meaningful life?

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