(Published in The Daily Guardian August 3, 2020)
We all expect things in life. Whether from other people, from ourselves, or from situations. It is normal to have hopes and expectations. However, giving too much importance to unrealistic expectations is a recipe for disaster and should be avoided to have a peaceful and happy life. There is a popular definition of expectations. It goes like this: “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” When we have expectations, it is like we are pre-planning the future resentments that are bound to occur. But whether it is expectations from others, from yourself or expectations others have from you or whether it is expectations from life and situations in general, the good news is you can learn to minimise them. Not having unrealistic expectations is a great way to grow spiritually and we will discover why.
We all have experienced it. You expect your loved one to say or do something that pleases you. It doesn’t happen and you feel dejected and disappointed! It starts from childhood. Kids expect parents to spend time with them. But parents are too busy. Disappointment. You expect your best friend to like something you do, but they don’t. Disappointment. You expect your spouse to like the same kind of food, TV shows and movies that you do. They don’t. Disappointment. Or you expect them to express their feelings more often and they don’t. Disappointment. You expect your children to always think the way you do and automatically think that they will live their lives the way you want them too. They don’t. Disappointment once again.
You are not alone. We all have had these moments in our lives and felt disappointed with other people. The reason is not about good or bad, or loving or less loving. The reason is because of unrealistic expectations. If you do not expect, you will not be disappointed. Unmet expectations can lead you down a very dangerous path of thinking that you are not loved or that you are unworthy in some way. But that is not the reality.
Every soul that is born has a history of multiple lives before. Each incarnation leaves certain imprints on our souls. Those imprints from previous lives and from this current life as well have an effect on the way we think about and perceive the world, ourselves and others. We often forget that even the ones we love the most have a spiritual and karmic history that is different from ours. We all have our own individual journeys. We cannot expect that anyone else will be exactly the way we expect them to be.
Unrealistic expectations aren’t always about other people. Sometimes we expect too much from ourselves. We always try to push ourselves too hard or are overly critical of ourselves. Often the cause of this is two-fold—comparison with others and understanding our own limitations.
It is natural to desire things that others have. We see someone in a fancy car or a fancy house and we start to compare ourselves to them. We start to expect things from ourselves in relation to that comparison. We need to remember that everybody has a different situation and looking at other people’s lives should not change our own life plan. You can learn lessons from the lives of others but remember that your goals in life, your dreams in life are yours only. Expect from yourself only what you think you can handle and not because someone else is living a lifestyle that you desire. When you compare yourself with others you will never be satisfied.
Learn to give time to your inner self through meditation and creativity. Take a breather and enjoy the moment! It is alright to take a break in life. Just because you expected your life to be a certain way which did not happen does not mean you have failed or that you need to be upset or disappointed. Remember no matter how much we plan, life has its own plans for us. There will always be some new opportunity for you to explore and always a new lesson to be learned.
The same applies to other people’s expectations from you. Remember that your thinking and actions should not depend on what other people expect from you. Your dreams and goals and the kind of life you want to live should be lived only because you want to live it like that. People have a tendency to want to control others. Many people must have experienced this in life. It could be a parent, spouse or boss. These people need to manage their own expectations and your life should never be about fulfilling the expectations of others.
We all expect things from life itself. As kids we probably expected to be millionaires by the age of 40. Some expected to be famous and powerful. Everyone must have had certain expectations in life. This is natural and normal. Having an expectation which is in the form of hope and desire is fine. It is when we allow our expectations to rule our happiness that problems are bound to occur. Remember that life has its own plan for us. We could call this karma or destiny. But the trick is to live in the moment. Strive to do the things you enjoy. Let the joy of doing it be its own reward. Once you do it, don’t expect people to praise you or don’t expect that you will suddenly become famous or powerful. Keep on doing what you want to do without expectations of the outcome or the accolades of achievement. Life is about the journey and not the destination. Take each day as it comes without expectation.
Acceptance is an important part of spiritual growth and not having unrealistic expectations is a great way to achieve this. Learn to let go. This does not mean that we have no boundaries. Not expecting things from others does not mean that you become a pushover. Self respect and self love is the most important thing. If you are not happy the way someone is treating you, voice it and do not accept. Communication is necessary. Do not expect that the other person will know your problems and what you do not like. Accept others for who they are. Everyone is different. That is what makes life so wonderful.
Not having unrealistic expectations helps you on the spiritual path. We are all on an infinite journey across multiple incarnations in a variety of dimensions and worlds. We should always be open to learning lessons and understanding that our happiness is within us and can never be gained by expecting anything that is beyond our control. We can only control ourselves and our reactions to external situations. This will teach us to accept and forgive ourselves and others. These are among the most spiritual of all virtues.
So while some expectations are natural, we must avoid unrealistic expectations from others and from ourselves and from life itself. Enjoy the journey. There is something waiting for you that is better than your wildest dreams or expectations!