20 August, 2009

What Did You Expect?

We’ve all experienced the disappointment of a failed expectation – where something we expected to happen didn’t. Maybe we expected someone to act a certain way and they didn’t, or maybe we expected praise from a boss or a spouse and we didn’t get it. As a child, you probably had a few Christmases or birthdays where you can recall expecting a certain present that you didn’t receive.

We’ve grown up to believe that life should contain disappointments – failed expectations. We use the phrase with one another, “well, what did you expect?” as if to imply that the other person was foolish to expect anything more than he or she got. Sometimes it seems that we can’t win for losing in these types of situations. It’s almost as if we shoot ourselves in the foot because, on the one hand, if you don’t expect more of others, how will they ever be called up to operate at a higher place, and, on the other hand, if we set our expectations above what they normally give, we’re bound to be disappointed.

I have a theory that I’ve been testing for some time now. It’s really a way of being that I’ve taken on and it has worked miracles for me and for the relationships I have with those in my life. Understand that I am not asserting that this will work for everyone or even for every situation. However, for where I am in my growth process and in my life, it’s a theory that has proven itself valid over and over again.

Consider that if you expect the most that a person is able to give, and accept what he offers as if it were his very best that he could give at that time, you have created a win-win situation – both for you and for the other person. You’ve set the expectation for the people with whom you choose to engage, that you expect those who engage with you to always give 100%. This calls others to action. It makes them accountable. And, it provides them with a knowing that you have the faith in them that they can perform at this level.

At the same time, you accept whatever is given to you as if it were perfect. It may not have met your expectations but it might be that it was all the individual could give at the time. Look at it this way: do you ever perform at an optimum 100% all of the time? I suspect that you don’t. Illness may sometimes slow you down. Lack of sleep due to other commitments can get in your way. Lack of exercise or improper eating habits may make you feel sluggish or make your brain feel “foggy.”

There are many reasons that someone might not meet your expectations. But rather than think about the situation from the other person’s point-of-view, we typically just get caught up in how our unfulfilled expectations affect us, and how they leave us feeling. More than likely, the other person wasn’t “out to get you” (although that may sometimes be the case), but was rather plagued by his or her own concerns and issues.

Just in line with my blogs on acceptance, this is yet another opportunity to accept another exactly as he is and exactly as he isn’t. It doesn’t mean that there may not be a time when you want to have a conversation with an individual about what is working and what isn’t working in your communications and with your expectations, but consider that we’re all in our own timing of learning the lessons of this life. We’re not all at the same place nor will we ever be. Having compassion on those who may not have learned a lesson that you already have, is a great lesson to learn and to put into daily practice.

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