Expectations are a funny thing. Defined as “a belief that something will happen or be the case“, they are often formulated from a mental energy based ‘misperception’. They can be linked with our ‘intention setting’ but they aren’t always positive, and often unrealistic. And when they are unreasonable for us, let alone others, they can be downright destructive in terms of the thought processes we use to punish ourselves when we perceive we have failed.
This can be demonstrated when a couple learn that they are pregnant. The expectation is that pregnancy will be this magical glowing experience, go to hospital and come home with a baby. Life will be amazing. And yes, we all want this as the outcome. However, it’s not always the case.
Some pregnancies don’t proceed after 12 weeks, some women feel nauseated the entire pregnancy, or lose their hair, or become incontinent, or get hemorrhoids, have horrific birth experiences, or worse some women experience all of this. Some babies are stillborn. Some babies were expected to be boys and yet born girls. Where the heck is the rosy picture of pregnancy then?
Isn’t it interesting, how quickly your brain went from pregnancy to expectation of seeing the mother hold the newborn? That’s how subtle an expectation can affect us. The subliminal perceptions that are associated with outcomes are very interesting. Whilst you want to go straight to easy and nice outcome, there’s often no pausing by the brain to assess anything alternative. It is this point that we establish an anchor point for negative perceptions and links to future failures.
Travis Bradberry talks about expectations in terms of goal setting and suggests it’s a good thing to have positive expectations when working towards your goals. I happen to disagree on one level in relation to this. Why? Because to focus on the expected outcome, without making any connection to the ’emotional juice’, your feelings, means that you’ll lose motivation, get mindset wobbles and ultimately fall off the moving forward wagon.
Bradberry talks about the following unrealistic expectations that bring you undone, and I find myself often supporting clients within my clinical practice in defusing negative emotions associated with these:
- life should be fair
- opportunities should fall into my lap
- everyone should like me
- people should agree with me
- people should know what I am saying
- I’m going to fail
- things will make me happy
- I can change him/her
Christine Hassler has the right idea and looks at flipping expectation on it’s head so you turn potential negatives into positives with a couple of hot tips. I would add to the goal setting process, that you take the time to actually understand your emotions which motivate you, and drive you to want success. For it is this understandinng which will support you to pick yourself up from any future perception of failure and remind self of the ultimate goal – to feel happiness and joy. Afterall that’s what life is all about isn’t it?
- Open communication is an absolute must whereby you provide or seek clarification of what you are wanting to say, not inferring. No one is a mind reader. We don’t understand your individual thought process. I haven’t lived your life with your experiences and inherited patterns, therefore I can’t possibly understand or recognise your stress triggers unless you tell me. Even then, I’m only processing your needs in relation to your stress triggers, with my stuff filter on!
Furthermore, if you’re trying to communicate something specific, it often pays to link your emotional juice to validate the reason or purpose. For example, if asking a colleague for a task to be done without specifying a deadline or reason for task sets everyone up for failure. Openly communicating exactly what the task is, when it’s due to be completed, and why it will support all parties to work collaboratively to achieve the goal. It’s a bit like making an informal agreement so that everyone involved understands the part they play.
2. Connection to your emotional juice! This concept can be expanded further to our own goal setting process. As a Wellness Coach, I work with clients to focus on creating goals to work towards living their dream life.
Whilst we set goals, we place our focus on the new habit that needs to be created to embrace the feeling, the emotional juice, of that dream life. Hassel refers to this as ‘secret sauce’ and I believe she’s onto something there!
When we create goals, part of the learning experience is that we experience mindset wobbles. It’s a bit like the universe subliminally asking us “are you sure this is what you want?” When the motivation waivers, I encourage clients to return to the what do I want to feel notes associated with their goal.
Asking yourself these simple questions then enables you to dissociate from the negative perception of failure and focus on the positive outcomes. When coaching, I often find identifying our weaknesses (or as I like to call them opportunities for growth) the most powerful exercise of goal setting we can undertake. Asking the following questions prompts our logic thinking to find solutions outside of the box, find evidence of previous success (ie what has worked before), and how we can change in the future.
- What did I learn?
- How can I leverage this learning to achieve my next goal?
- How can I behave differently in the future?
- And based on what I learned, what agreement can I make to myself or someone else regarding future goals?
3. Seeking validation that you have been understood during communication ensures that all parties are on the same page. Sometimes, this communication helps you to remain very clear on what it is exactly that you want. As we undertake working towards achieving the goal, sometimes it changes and we receive unexpected bonuses? Validating your emotional juice, your feelings in relation to life, is a fantastic opportunity to clarify – yes I’m on the right path.
Validating your feelings enables you to maintain connections between your emotional brain and gut reaction – ie open heart space. It’s when we disconnect from feelings during reaction that those Negative Nancy monkey chatter patterns kick in and we misperceive what’s going on around us.
4. High involvement in actions, low attachment to outcome. Hassel refers to this as expectation hangover, and I completely agree. As we walk our path, it’s vital to focus on how good we are feeling at moving forward on our journey, the lessons we are learning and our growth.
If we focus on outcomes like acquiring stuff, more money etc then there is no internal satisfaction and we crave more external to validate our internal sense of self worth.
Sometimes just having clarity in the small steps forward that we take can alter our perception of the journey we walk. So take action and plenty of it. Connect with how the action makes you feel as you migrate towards your ideal life. It’s this continuous investment into your happiness account by acknowledging your feel good moments that motivates you to do more, rather than focus on the outcome.
5. Understand and recognise that your values and beliefs are yours, they don’t belong to others. We are all different and unique – thank goodness or the world would be a boring space! With that said, it’s impossible to expect others to share your exact beliefs and values. Why? Because they don’t wear your underpants. They don’t walk in your shoes. They don’t have your environmental experiences or genetic inheritance patterns. They aren’t you.
So remember this when in a moment of misperception or misunderstanding of a situation (this can cause conflict). Take a breath and if necessary utilise the coaching questions:
- Am I in control of the situation?
- Can I shelf my feelings until later?
- Can I choose to change my perception?
6. Gain a different perspective. Journalling or debriefing (or even Kinesiology and Wellness Coaching) with a person of trust can support you to gain a true perception of reality. Talking or writing about scenarios supports you to defuse the negative emotion which has arisen, and then step out and perceive different view points of the fish bowl of life. When we step out of the intensity we can then grant ourselves the opportunity to understand what might be a motivational factor for another party. We may be able to gain some understanding of how they might process or react to a situation.
7. Accept what is. I had a client recently who had become so disillusioned with her partner that she declared she would stop talking to them because she felt disrespected. Four months later a conversation had still not eventuated and she was left heartbroken, angry, sad and confused. I know, four months is an incredibly long time to share space but not words.
Imagine how your body feels when you stuff those unexpressed emotions into it? Pain. Discomfort…..
The unwanted negative thoughts of shoulda, woulda, coulda all start to form a merry-go-round inside your head and your ability to perceive reality becomes tainted with reality. Sometimes you need to take a breath, step back one pace and own this place you’re in.
Acceptance of situations is the first step towards climbing out of the hole. When you can acknowledge a situation, thought or feeling on a conscious level, you can then engage your logic brain to find a better solution and change. Sometimes acceptance of a situation, no matter how sloppy the sh*t sandwich tennis match has become, is the first step to telling yourself “why am I choosing to maintain this?” Acceptance also creates positive space for you to entertain gratitude.
As Shakespeare says, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” It sets us up for disappointment, heartache and a perception of failure because we don’t achieve our desired outcomes. Is it time to take a breath, step out of a current negative situation and assess your thoughts, feelings?
Is it time to communicate your needs openly, and include reference to your feelings? Is it time to consider how the other party might be feeling so you can understand and adapt your feelings and responses? Is it time to stop punishing yourself with shoulda, woulda, coulda thought patterns and adapt I am willing to learn to change?
You can choose to change and bloom from within
as you practice your perfection of living your dream life xx
Bradberry, Travis. (2016, January) “8 Unrealistic Expectations That Hold You Back”
Hassler, Christine (2015, February) “Tips To Avoid An Expectation Hangover” Success