I expect that if I invest my energy into a physical training program and diligently do the work every day for months, that I’ll see physical changes in my body.
I expect that if I hire a professional to guide me, that the professional will guide me to visible results.
I expect that if I’m paying someone for a service, then that person will get back to me in a timely manner when I leave a message.
I expect that professionals who offer me an opportunity to invest in working with them will provide a clear outline laying out what’s included in my investment. And I expect them to answer any questions I may have about it.
I expect that my coaches, advisors, and other professionals I choose to work with on a one-on-one basis will care about my desired results; that they have some level of emotional and mental investment in helping me meet my outcomes. That they will, at the very least, hold space.
I expect my clients to do their work, to participate in their own rescue, and to share with me where they are struggling.
I expect that when people ask me for my advice, especially when they invest significantly to do so, that they will take my advice.
These are just some of the expectations I have.
My expectations all feel reasonable to me. In fact, many are cultural norms. We expect people to return our calls, emails, and texts promptly. In a sales process, it is unthinkable that you’d quote someone a rate and not tell them what they get for that investment.
And, yet, I’ve often found myself in resistance — frustrated, annoyed, in judgment — when these and other of my expectations aren’t met.
Expectations Create Suffering
This is one of the hardest lessons to learn and integrate:
All expectations create resistance. Resistance leads to suffering.
What does this mean?
Whenever we are feeing frustrated, annoyed, angry, irritable, or judgmental, we are in resistance. These are just a few of the emotions that are evidence of our resistance.
In this state, we are wanting the situation to be different from what it is.
Resistance creates our suffering. We suffer because we resist life as it is. We want circumstances to be different.
Reasonableness Is Irrelevant
This lesson is so hard to integrate because we fall into the trap of assessing the reasonableness of our expectations.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if the expectations are reasonable.
In fact, often the more “reasonable” the expectation, the more we resist, and the more we suffer. When our expectations are reasonable, we may claim the moral high ground.
Really, there’s no such thing as a reasonable expectation. All expectations are unreasonable.
Release, Don’t Manage
So much of our interpersonal conflicts and our fractured relationships are based on unmet expectations. The concept of “managing expectations” is one of the first things we learn as professionals.
It doesn’t work.
Instead of trying to manage expectations we must learn to release expectations.
When we release expectations we open ourselves to experience life as it is, not as we want it to be or as we believe it should be.
This doesn’t mean we let others off the hook for failing to do their jobs. We can still hold people to task. But question whether it serves us to be so wrapped up in our resistance.
By the way, as we are in the week of forgiveness, it’s worth noting that releasing the expectations we hold for how others should act is the first step to forgiveness.
Let’s be clear: Releasing expectations isn’t easy. This is a lesson many of us receive on repeat. We form expectations easily, and many of them are reinforced by the culture.
Releasing expectations is hard.
Tread with self-compassion here as you practice.