Thursday, January 17, 2013

You Expected Me to Do What?

Expectations are produced by beliefs. Even the definition of the word suggests that this is so, for to expect something is to believe that it will or should take place. When you tell me that you are my friend, and I believe you, because I have certain beliefs regarding the nature of friendship, I will expect behaviors congruent with those beliefs. Conversely, if I have no expectations of you, then I have no beliefs regarding you or our relationship. It seems to me that one of life’s greater challenges is to pay attention to what our expectations are telling us about our beliefs.  

People who live in a perpetual state of disappointment are usually individuals with a belief-system in place that has produced unrealistic expectations for themselves, others, and for life in general. Believing that I am to attain perfection in this life, that love means never having to say you are sorry, and that there should never be long lines at the grocery store, produces expectations that are not going to be met!

Agreeing with Shakespeare who wrote that, “Expectation is the root of all heartache,” some people decide the best way to avoid pain and disappointment is to do away with expectations altogether. However, to do away with all expectation means that I have no beliefs regarding life (and, possibly, the God over life), my relationships with my loved ones, or myself. To me, this agnostic approach to living opens the door to apathy, which is only a few steps from cynicism.

I think a wiser way to approach the pain that comes with expectations not being met is to consider the nature of the belief that produced the expectation. If I am pained by your behavior toward me, what is my belief regarding you, the nature of our relationship, and the behaviors I believe congruent with this relationship? While I am not going to change my beliefs about stealing or lying, for example, I may want to adjust a belief that says, “If we are to remain friends, I believe you must like everything I like and dislike everything I dislike.” The next question is were you aware of my beliefs, and, if you were, did you agree with these beliefs and the expectations that went along with them? Come on. How can I be upset with your behavior toward me if it was something –a belief-- that we never shared?

Your beliefs about God, life, human nature, love, family, friendship, work, integrity, and everything else, are creating expectations. Sometimes these beliefs need to deepen and be filled with more substance, thus, creating higher expectations. At other times, you will find that you need to stop typing a belief in all capitol letters with exclamation points and use a much smaller font size. And, in some instances, you may find that you need to let go of the belief and the expectations that came with it. The next time you are disappointed in life, others, or yourself, as something or someone failed to meet your expectations, check out your beliefs: they just may need to be adjusted.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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