Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Often times when I am lying in bed, just waking in the morning, I think of how my day will go. Sometimes even the night before, I dream up all the amazing things that will get done and how great I will feel at the end of the day.
I think, "Won't it just be amazing that the spot on the ceiling in the bathroom that accidentally got painted grey will be covered with white ceiling paint after I check it off my list tomorrow?" You know, the spot that no one but myself notices.
I am not going to lie. That spot has been driving me crazy for years. But, what happens if home schooling the kids, writing, and a dentist appointment get in the way of that getting done? What happens if I decide to relax after 5:00 instead of continuing to work to check that one item off the list? Worse yet, what if I mess it up and hit the wall with white ceiling paint? Well, then the whole day just went to shit, didn't it? I hope you are sensing the sarcastic tone here. . .
Shame sets in. Then disappointment settles in for the ride. Disappointment is such a horrible thing. Remember when your parents would say, "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed." Worst feeling ever.
Worse than being disappointed in yourself is being disappointed in someone else. What happens when we dream up things for someone else? What happens when we expect things from other people?
Hear me out: I think having high expectations can be a great thing. We can push ourselves to be better and we do better. But, when we have high expectations for someone else, we are 99.9% likely to be disappointed.
For instance, let's assume that you have decided that today you would like your daughter to clean her room. You've been hounding her for weeks and she's doing this cute thing where she exclaims how hard it is, how she has no room, and she just doesn't want to (remember, she does it in a really cute voice. . . this may or may not be a real situation in my house). You give her kind nudges throughout the week and remain soft on it actually getting done. But, this day you decide that it will get done and you think about how nice it will be to walk into her room, without stepping on doll arms, legos, and fingerlings. In the past, I've resolved this expectation that it will be done by doing it myself. Take that, world. I've managed to take it off my list but now I'm pissed because daughter didn't actually clean her room - I did.
Or, think about that person you love that doesn't have a job. You know that securing a job would help them in life and take it upon yourself to help. You have given them all the tips and tricks you have on finding a job: check out online job postings, fill out an app for that place down the street, touch base with Uncle Jim about his friend that owns a restaurant. You have decided that they will definitely get a job if they do what you have shared. But, does that person want a job? If they don't, I can guarantee you that your tips are wasted effort. Even if they do, your efforts are likely wasted. You will see them next week and ask how it's going and become deflated when they say that they haven't had time to check into any of it yet.
You have set yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because you placed an expectation on someone that they didn't share. My daughter rarely feels like cleaning her room and that loved one isn't interested in getting a job.
Instead, what if we communicated differently?
What if, the morning I decided that my daughter's room would be clean, I chatted with her about how important it was to have a clean room (i.e. Mom no longer cusses when she steps on toys on the way to kiss her goodnight) and rewarded her with something for getting it done? It would certainly be more likely that she would clean her room on her own and better yet, be so proud she would show everyone that visited.
What if, instead of taking it upon myself to "help" my loved one find a job, I decided to accept the fact that they are in charge of their life. If they wanted help, they would ask me for it. If they don't ask, there is no point. None.
Learn to accept people for who they are and be pleasantly surprised when they do something for you. This virtually eliminates all disappointment. It isn't easy and in all honesty, I am always having to remind myself about what my expectations were if I am disappointed. Almost always, I set some expectation that was not fair.
Expectation is the root of all heartache. - William Shakespeare
One thing that I've learned about expectations: If we want someone to do something, we must communicate. It is ridiculous to believe that someone will know what we are thinking and even more ridiculous to be upset when we don't communicate and we don't get what we want.
Practicing this skill will help you be more grateful for the people in your life. Start asking yourself some questions when you find yourself feeling disappointed:
* Your husband didn't do the dishes? What was your expectation? Did you communicate?
* Your daughter comes home late from a friend's house? What was your expectation? Did she know?
A special note for those with friends and family members in addiction: This practice can be especially helpful for us if we allow it to be. Try it the next time you find yourself wanting to control your loved one. I promise this is a game changer!