The human mind is capable of many things. It can think, it can dream, it can plan. It can look forward to the future and try to predict how events will unfold. The key word here is try. More often than not, its predictions are wrong. And when they are wrong, the mind has a tendency to bemoan its luck. How could it have been treated so unfairly? What is wrong with it that things didn’t go its way?
Though the mind can do a lot, it has trouble making sense of the unexpected. This often leads to frustration, sadness and even anger. If you constantly feel let down because things don’t go your way, it may be time to assess the role your expectations play in your life. If you’re like many people, you may find that expectations bring more unhappiness than they do joy.
Expectations and Disappointment
Expectations typically result in two core feelings, the biggest of which is disappointment. When your expectations do not match reality, you may feel frustrated. For many people, this is often the case even when the reality isn’t worse than the expectation they had created for themselves, just different.
You may know this feeling all too well. When the grocery store doesn’t have your favorite brand of peanut butter … When you don’t get the promotion you worked so hard for … When your flight is delayed … Or when the person of your dreams breaks up with you. These outcomes may differ from what you had hoped, so they make you feel worse than had things gone as planned. This is the case even if the consequences for your well-being of the real outcome are similar to those of your anticipated one, or if they’re better.
When the consequences of the actual outcome are materially worse for you, the feelings of disappointment, sadness and regret may be intensified. For instance, say you did get passed over for a promotion despite the hard work you put in. You may feel regret for the past five, 10 or even 20 years you dedicated to your employer. These emotions do you absolutely no good and can cause you to discount all the positive that came from your employment. For example, you may have grown as a professional, developed lasting friendships and supported your family on your income. However, because of your disappointment, which stemmed from your expectations, you fail to see the good in your situation.
Expectations and Resentment
The other primary feeling expectations create is resentment. It is not uncommon for individuals to feel like this when things don’t go their way. In fact, many people feel insulted, disrespected, cheated or lied to when their expectations of another don’t match reality. These emotions become even more intense when one has high expectations of a person or event, or when the actual outcome is decidedly worse than the anticipated one.
Managing Your Expectations
Expectations are not always bad. For instance, the more you expect of yourself, the more you are likely to accomplish. However, when you create expectations for every area of and person in your life, you risk setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. You also risk ruining friendships or relationships that may have otherwise been great had you just let them unfold naturally rather than forcing things.
If you’re someone for whom expectations are a great source of letdown, you may need to learn how to live in a more flexible manner. Learn to let go and roll with the punches, and to let life unfold naturally. In doing so, you will feel happier and more capable of moving forward in a positive manner.