THE ART OF EXPECTATION
With the explosion of social media and the boom of one of the biggest growth industries – personal development, in the guise of coaching, counselling, mentoring and more – has come the wildfire spread of easy to throw around sayings and quotes. Many of these come acknowledged with the original author or speaker’s name and others are requoted as if owned by the quote-ee rather than giving kudos to the quote-or. I love quotes, and I especially like it when the originator is given due acknowledgement. I like the inspired thoughts contained within many quotes and I love the attached inspiring imagery. I connect with many quotes, appreciate them coming my way and like the gentle reminder that many bring.
There are two general themes of quotes that, over the past few years, have inspired me in a very different way. In fact, these particular themes have for me been part of a reassessment of my long involvement in the personal development industry and human behaviour field.
These underlying themes are part of a belief set that has managed to pervade the field of personal development and, it seems to me, have managed to escape any real question or discussion in regards to their validity.
So what are they? I bet you’ve heard them over and over again, written and spoken in varying different creative ways. In fact, you probably, like me have “liked” many quotes containing these themes, attended many seminars, workshops based on these beliefs and even partaken of conversations where you have vehemently (or perhaps even, blindly) agreed and further added weight to them.
Before I get to the point I’m going to outright say that on one level…I totally agree…with these themes. And this delineation is one of the keys to the ART of Expectation.
Level or context is oh so important…and oh so often not referred to or defined…leaving the reader or listener to create their own understanding in whatever context they choose…and herein lies the potential to misinterpret and to propagate beliefs that become questionable when applied out of context.
Get the context…what levels am I referring to? In these two cases – the human and the spiritual level. Two very different aspects and so, when absorbing these delicious quotes, we have two very different contexts in which to apply them…which…it seems, are often not considered.
Here are the themes:
- “There is no right and wrong”, along with the attached “It’s all just perception” and “Don’t judge”
- “Be positive” and the associated “Accept what is.”
The two really go hand in hand. And on one level…the spiritual level…many of you, like me, may believe these to be true. And, like me you may have even said to yourself and others:
- “Let go and let God (deal with it).”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “All is in perfect order.”
- “Do what feels good no matter what.”
- “That’s just a story!”
- “Change the way you look at things and things change.”
- “When you have an emotional reaction to what you see, you are judging. That is your signal that you have an issue inside of yourself – with yourself – not with the other person. If you react to evil, look inside yourself for the very thing that so agitates you, and you will find it. If it were not there, you will simply discern, act appropriately, and move on.”
? Gary Zukav
The last quote above literally popped up on my personal FaceBook wall as was writing this. It may indeed be a signal inside our self…just not the signal that the writer is expecting us to believe. In other words, it may not be an issue “with yourself” but “for yourself” to deal with.
These two themes underpin the idea that we should not have “expectations” of other people, especially in our personal relationships. Just because there is a plethora of social media about relationships promoting “giving up expectations in order to be happy” does not mean that this is “right” or THE way or even something that is functional or easy to do. At the human level is it even possible to do?
When relationship gurus promise that if you just…stop expecting…in your relationships then everything will be hunky dory and perfect…do you take this on blind faith that this works or do you think it though?
Granted, this idea has served some situations. I can quite easily attest, through personal experience and through clinical experience of my clients, as well as anecdotes of friends and others, that if you have expectations, and your expectations are UNREASONABLE, and you let go of them…then things usually do improve.
It makes sense that if you are looking at things and you are making assumptions based on limiting or negative beliefs (that if you change the way you look at things, that is…if you stop judging the behaviour of others based on your own skewed filters) then, the thing you look at will change (you will see it differently because you are judging it differently). When you judge someone’s behaviour differently then your expectations of them will be different too.
Here’s the thing: humans are meaning making beings. We use our ability to “judge” – form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration – every minute of every day! The reaction against judging seems to have arisen out of both the act of prejudice and when we apply the judgement to the person rather than the behaviour. Both of which we could all do well to learn not to do. However, the ability to judge behaviours; especially the actions that others take that cause harm to us or others, is, in my opinion; is fundamental to both our sanity and our safety…on the human level.
So, if you ask me to drop my expectations you are asking me to suspend judgement and to accept what is going on, no matter what, and that if I just change the way I look at it, it will all magically get better, even if what I am seeing is real and not blurred by my own limiting filters.
When we are told that “The person who has the least rules (expectations) in relationship is happiest” are we not being taught to potentially drop our standards, to let go of what we think is right and wrong…or just plain right or wrong for us?
I cannot even begin to suspect the number of women who have been coached to stay in “bad” relationships by well-meaning coaches spruiking these ideals when it is not the woman herself who is being unreasonably expectant. Women are generally the target market of the relationship coaching boom. It has been said that “Women are the emotional gate keepers of relationships”. Although, this is a massive generalisation, and perhaps one that is becoming less valid, it is never-the-less the trend that women are seeking help for relationships issues first and in greater numbers than men.
Regardless of gender…teaching someone to drop expectations, when those expectations are reasonable, just, fair, voiced and agreed to, is akin to inviting insanity and harm. It potentially sets a low standard…or no standard at all. It says “I have no expectations of you, but you can expect that I will love you, and be here no matter what”. Let’s face it, on the human level, that is breeding victimhood.
If someone breaks into your house and steals your stuff and bashes you in the process…are we really supposed to just accept, feel positive about it and do nothing because there is no right and wrong? If your heart is your home are we really expected to let people break it, and trash it and do nothing but love back? No!
On a spiritual level these themes…are beautiful…they are all about loving unconditionally.
On a human level love and relationships are two different things. Yes, love unconditionally…but the relationship itself is defined by expectations. Its boundaries are governed by its expectations.
Whether it is a work relationship, a friendship, a family relationship or an intimate relationship…the thing that defines the relationship is the expectations that each has of the other.
The art is in the expecting.
- Are your expectations reasonable?
- Are you seeing the person and the situation clearly?
- Are you both clear about what you expect of each other?
- Are you able to speak about it when expectations have been unfulfilled?
- Are you both aware of your deal breakers?
- What will and won’t you tolerate?
- How do you deal with it when expectations are broken?
- Are you both willing to be accountable?
- What do you make a stand for in your relationships?
- Who are you being or how are you showing up in your relationships?
Who gets to say what is and isn’t reasonable? You do. We all do. You get to determine what works and doesn’t work for you in relationship. Take feedback and check in to make sure that you are being reasonable.
If you have too many rules or ones that are impossible to live up to…then ask yourself…is this working for me? Is it working for others? Are you being impossible to please?
Do you have no standards, no rules? Are you so incredibly easy to please that you let yourself be taken advantage of or walked all over…or do you just give and give and find yourself low on the receiving end? Ask yourself…is this working for me and others?
Why not expect someone to have the highest and fairest expectations of you and why not be the person that is willing to fulfil these for another?
Why not learn the art of expecting and open yourself up to even more connection, love and possibilities by having the highest and fairest expectations?
Why not expect the best for yourself…if you are willing to be that for another?