Recently I wasted an entire 24 hours of my life upset and angry because a very important day didn’t live up to my imagined expectations. As I became ever more agitated and weepy, the day spun out of control. It was a snag-fest kind of day the order of magnitude of which would have me whining, and at times outright sobbing for most of it.
After a few hours of my attitude spiraling downward, I had successfully rectified the expectation situation by getting exactly what I was beginning to expect – roadblocks, stumbles, and disappointments both large and small. Yep – expectations can be fulfilled.
I remember years ago my dad told me that he’s happiest when he keeps his expectations of others low. I thought he was full of it. I thought he was delusional because he surely had high expectations for himself and us – especially in school and sports (daily doubles for track anyone?). I had no idea what he was talking about. I checked with my mom to see if she too thought this was utter bull, and she set me straight.
I had it all wrong. While he had high expectations for himself and us in the way of effort and performance on things we could control, his happiness was not dependent on whether or not we, or others met those expectations.
How could that be? I’ve always heard that you get what you expect. Isn’t that the theory? Raise the bar of expectation and students, kids, spouses, friends, co-workers, etc… will rise to the occasion, right? Well sometimes yes, and sometimes no, but never if an expectation hasn’t been spoken. So there’s nothing wrong with setting expectations, or having them, right? Absolutely not.
The problem comes when you hand over the keys to your happiness to the fulfillment of those expectations by others. Aha! I think I get it; set the bar and have faith that they will do the best they can and be okay with that. But here’s the other little tidbit that contributed to my dad’s happiness, and it’s taken me a bit longer to figure out: Don’t expect more from others than you expect from yourself, and if and when they don’t live up to your hopes, either be prepared to shrug it off, or if it’s that important to you – do it yourself.
And move on. Simple as that; happiness is an inside job and you have to bring your own tools to the construction site – daily.
Today I picked out my own birthday cake. A day late, but hey – I’m learning.