Expectations are a part of human nature. We have expectations for others and expectations for ourselves. Some expectations are fruitful and motivate either ourselves or others to excel. The problem with having expectations comes when we cannot let go of them. Either we do not or cannot meet our own expectations or others do not or cannot meet the expectations we have of them.
Failure to let go can result in a myriad of emotions including frustration, depression, disappointment, and anger.
One trick in dealing with expectations is learning what you can control and what is beyond your control. For example, you can control what expectations you place on yourself and what expectations you place on others. You can also control whether or not you live up to your own expectations. You cannot, however, control others’ ability to live up to your expectations.
This is a hard lesson to learn and even harder to implement.
Parents have expectations of their children. Employers have expectations of their employees. Employees have expectations of their bosses. Friends have expectations of friends. The list goes on. When those expectations are not met, frustration, disappointment, and anger ensue. Why? Because we want people to live up to our expectations of them.
One of the many things I have learned in counseling is this:
Meet clients where they are rather than where you expect them to be.
Sounds simple and in truth, the theory is. Putting the theory into practice, on the other hand, can be extremely difficult. Meeting others where they are is not something you can simply turn on or turn off. You have to continually work at it.
Many times I feel disappointed in others who are not meeting my expectations. Once I recognize that I am spooling myself up over something I cannot control I have to stop, take a deep breath, and remind myself with a whispered mantra, “Meet them where they are.” I have found this exercise to be effective in working with others but also in maintaining my own mental health.
This is not about lowering expectations. To me, that is even more difficult than trying to meet someone where they are rather than where I think they should be. As a matter of fact, it may be near impossible as a parent to see potential in a child go unfulfilled and then decide to simply lower expectations. It is much easier to realize the child is not yet where you would like them to be. Meeting them where they are allows the parent to stave off disappointment and maintain support at the same time.
I think the most difficult aspect of the whole process is acknowledging a lack of control; that is, coming to the realization that as much as you would like, you cannot control another. The process is worth the effort though, both for the sake of relationships with others and, maybe more importantly, for you.