As we usher in another calendar year, many of us will resolve to change the current trajectory of our lives. From health and wellness, to prioritizing our to-do-lists (both personally and professionally). I’m not exempt in such attempts, though I’ve repeatedly resolved to do the same thing year after year and somehow always manage to fail. My resolution? To set low expectations.
Douglas Adams, an English author and screenwriter, one remarked that, “A life that is burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment.”
I can attest to the accuracy of that statement as I’ve spent much of my life setting high expectations for relationships, situations and occasions, which oftentimes resulted in nothing more than loneliness, and as Adams stated above, disappointment.
For instance, how many times have you done something nice for friends or family and expected a certain response in return that you never received?
Lacking the expected response often causes us to feel unappreciated and even offended for not being recognized for our actions – eventually causing a great strain in the relationship.
We then file that experience in the back of our mind until their name re-emerges in a future conversation. What’s immediately evident is how the overall dynamic of the relationship has changed – how we’re less apt to extend a similar act of kindness again fearing repeated disappointment.
But the fact of the matter is you can’t expect that others are going to change. Just because we expect a certain response for our actions doesn’t mean they will elicit one. The only thing we can really do is change our own attitudes towards others.
To understand that not everyone possesses the same level of politeness, depth of feeling, compassion or gratitude, and that holding others to high exceptions is a recipe for continual disappointment and even alienation.
While it may seem pessimistic, I truly believe that it’s important to set low expectations, especially when it comes to friends and family. This way, when the response exceeds what we expected, we’ll feel joy not disappointment.
I again will resolve to set low expectations for those around me in the coming year – as I have repeatedly with little success. Maybe the reason I always fail has less to do with effort and more to do with the reality that people are in our lives for a reason and therefore should be held to higher expectations than total strangers.