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Great expectations

By:Alun Jones
Date: Mon,12 Apr 2010
Submitter:Alun Illumine

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"To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves -- there lies the great, singular power of self-respect." Joan Didion

Life is all about expectations really isn’t it. Have you noticed that? What we expect to happen, and I do mean really expect to happen, usually does. I don’t mean here the half-hearted expectations – I mean the firm beliefs and intentions we set for ourselves about what we want from life.

The challenge with expectations, of course, is that we all have different expectations both of ourselves and, as unhelpfully at times (!), other people. Let me expand upon that. I was in the supermarket the other day and I heard a mother telling her son she “didn’t expect him to behave that way in public because it embarrassed her”. Never mind that she was shouting this at him and drawing more attention to herself than he had in the first place by running up and down the aisle and accidentally knocking into someone (i.e me! ?)

Don’t worry this is not going to be a lecture about “good parenting”. I am the last to qualify on that given I have no children of my own. What I’m focusing upon here is the expectations we have of other people and how angry we allow ourselves to get when other people don’t live up to them. At the end of the day, why should they?! Isn’t that placing our model of the world around others and trying to force them to do what we want them to do, rather than allowing them the freedom of choice to act on their own conscience and guidance systems?

Even children have their own guidance system and will learn quite quickly about what is helpful and unhelpful behaviour. Of course we’re here to give them guidance to help them navigate the world around them, but at the end of the day, no matter what you do, the child will make up its own mind about what it wants to do. And, as we get older, that sense of “Self” and expectation grows.

If we expect ourselves continually to “fail” (although I don’t really like that word myself – there is no failure, just different outcomes) then we surely will. Put another way, if we expect ourselves not to deliver or manifest what it is we actually want then we never will. What’s that quote “whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’ll be right” (by Henry Ford).

Going back to expectations by others, have you ever heard yourself (or someone around you) “I just never expected that of him/her”. Let me push a button and ask “why not?”. The thing with expectation is that, with it, comes judgment. If people don’t do what we expect there is potentially a positive or negative judgment that goes with it. Or, even better (!), if people do what we expect (i.e. behave in a way which we don’t like) there’s even more judgment!

Surely it’s better not to have expectations about other people and just focus upon expecting the best of and for ourselves. Let other people take care of their own expectations. So rather than thinking “Oh I hope that X doesn’t get drunk and start to become annoying”, think instead “I’m going to go out and expect to have a good time, regardless of what happens”. Do you see the difference? You’re putting the onus, and expectation, upon yourself and what you want to create for yourself.

One last thought to leave you with…. When we are truly connected with the loving, authentic Self within, there is nothing that we could expect for ourselves that would harm anyone else. Fact. What will you expect for yourself today? Try expecting something wonderful and see what happens, but whatever does, I expect to connect with you again next week! ?
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