A quick Google search resulted in 203 million(ish) links, and the first two pages were a pretty good indication of what we currently collectively think about expectations:
- Could the answer to our happiness be found in no expectations?
- Manifest your desires freely by having no expectations
- Expectations equal unhappiness
- Have no expectations and just see where life takes you
- Having no expectations improves your life satisfaction
- The danger of having expectations
- How high expectations can harm your relationship
- Expectations: Why having them hurts more than helps
That’s a lot of pressure on a noun, no? If we break it down to its definition (you have a strong belief that something will be the case in the future), it doesn’t sound so menacing, does it? If you go to a dinner party, you expect to have dinner. If you go to a job interview, you expect to be asked questions about your work experience (you might even expect to get the job!). If you go to DavidsTea, you expect to pay a bazillion dollars for loose tea.
Of course we have expectations. It’s part of why we do anything at all.
But Shannon! Expectations are unhealthy. If I do not meet my expectations, I will feel disappointed and fearful, and after some time, distrustful of people and myself. (This is an incredibly high-level summary of all the crap I had to read about the dangers of expectations.)
To this I say: suck it up, Sally – that’s life. And research backs me up in a more profound way. Despite the plethora of online opinion pieces telling us to lower our expectations, there are many studies proving that people with high expectations are generally happier, whether they succeed or fail. Why? Because they have the ability to look at failure as an opportunity to learn and do better, not tuck their collective tails between their legs and give up.
It’s not about lowering our expectations, folks, it’s about accepting setbacks and moving on. Things don’t go our way, people let us down, shit happens. It doesn’t mean you turn your back on having goals and aspirations. It doesn’t mean you forget the glory of reaching the tops of mountains or the ends of books or the beginnings of friendships. Because that’s also what happens – your expectations can be met, you can achieve your goals, you can find success and you can be incredibly proud of your accomplishments.
So, as we come upon 2014, and start making our resolutions, I say expect the best. In fact, have great expectations. As Wayne Gretzky said: “You miss 100% of the shots you do not take.”
Of course being who I am, I feel I have to add a disclaimer: If you have unrealistic expectations, then you are almost certainly bound to fail. Don’t be an idiot about it. : )
- Sharot, T. Shiner, T. Dolan, R. J. (2010) Experience and Choice Shape Expected Aversive Outcome. Journal of Neuroscience 30 (27), 9209 -15.