“Expectations” the word churns mixed emotions in all of us. Sometimes we feel nice and happy about having some expectations from a loved one, whereas sometimes we are thinking about expectations that we have unmet. Life swings between these two situations. Here, we need to strike a balance between met and unmet expectations.

Having expectations is a natural phenomenon – we have expectations from everyone around us likewise people around us have expectations from us. Most of the complications in life arrive from “unmet expectations” from people around us and the expectations we have from ourselves. When our expectations are met, we are happy, pleased, and joyous, but if they are not, it turns out to be a big disappointment.

One of the most disappointing experiences in life is when we think something should go a certain way, and it does not. In other words, we are frustrated or feel let down when we have unmet expectations. This is completely understandable, particularly since we are hardwired to set expectations from the time that we are infants.

Low expectation is the key to happiness in life – Christopher Miller

We are wired for how certain situations should pan out like feeding, bedtime, a doctor’s appointment, going to the store or a restaurant, etc. These help us set expectations that allow us to feel comfortable and safe in the world around us. But life has its plans. The day or activities do not turn out the way we want them to be. Some or the other thing crops up which derails our expectations/ plans for the day and we are getting frustrated.

Although having expectations can help us in many ways, expectations that are out of balance (too high or too low) can also hinder our ability to have success in our lives. It is essential for us to learn how to identify what our expectations are, and to learn how to adjust them as needed to set ourselves and our relationships up for success.

From where do expectations emanate? These emanate from all over…while going to school we expect the school bus to arrive on time even if it rains heavily. Or we expect the teacher to finish the lesson in one go. Or we expect mom to be ready with food as soon as we reach home. Or we expect the father to take us out as soon as he comes home from work. Or we expect parents to help us with homework or project work. This way we see that we start building up expectations from an early age. This gets piled up as we start growing up and we witness that certain expectations remain unfulfilled.

Expectations that we have when it comes to life, family, timing, and especially love can come from many different places. They often start with past experiences we have had involving our own family. This can be a blessing or a curse (or a bit of both) depending on the state of your family. Whether your parent’s relationship was full of love and respect, or anger and bitterness could affect what you think your relationship will, or should, look like.

This is when we have expectations from others, our family members, friends, teachers, neighbours, etc. What about the expectations we have for ourselves? They are even more difficult to fulfill…

…and these lead to unhappy situations, besides impacting our internal happiness.

Some of these could be:

Life should be fair, whereas it is not. We have noticed that bad things happen to good people all the time for no reason. Expecting you will never have to deal with hardship or difficulties and that you will not cope when they come, is denying the human experience.

“I am a very pleasant and likeable person,” which is not a possibility always. We are disappointed when people do not like us for the reasons best known to them. You need to understand that they will not and they do not. Just as you do not like everyone you know.

People should not disagree with me or counter my viewpoint. I appreciate that yours may not be the only right answer and being right is not always right. We tend to take other’s words and behaviour personally when often, it is about them not us. We expect them to think and act just like us and if they do not, we feel hurt or angry.

Besides, we also expect that whatever we are trying to say, people should understand it in true spirit. But that seldom happens. Assumptions, like expectations, can be Happiness Killers. People will not understand us just because we are talking. Genuinely listening to someone else with empathy creates understanding whilst projecting our own mental filters and world views onto others generates misunderstanding and hurt feelings.

 We also underestimate our happiness ratings. We think that things will make us happy. A good home, a car, an AC or whatever you desire will make you happy. But the acquisition of these material things gives us happiness no doubt but for a short period. Once the novelty factor is over, we become sad again. This is because we are poor at predicting what will make us happy in the future. What makes you the happiest? This question from Buddha is difficult to answer. Winning a lottery? Getting married? Buying a new car? You need to figure out and become happy about that.

I am not in this world to live up to your expectations and you are not in this world to live up to mine.