We get disappointed by people, situations and even ourselves when our expectations aren’t met. This simply means that we have a concept or an idea of how things should be and when reality doesn’t match this idea, disappointment ensues. Repeated disappointments or a disappointment brewed over time leads to frustration. Frustration leads to anger. Anger leads to self-loathing. Self-hatred leads us to depression. And this completely destroys us.
This is clearly not a wise way to live life. But does that mean that we completely drop all expectations? What do we do when a partner is abusive with us? Do we not expect a relationship to be loving and kind? What do you do when a partner does not focus on you and tends towards narcissism? Do you keep quiet and accept it? What do you do when your work colleague doesn’t contribute adequately to the team? These are practical situations where we do indeed expect that people fit roles and responsibilities.
Expectations per se aren’t bad. These are in fact necessary to know what we want in life. Expectations are essentially a guiding vision – how we want life to be, what we would like from our partners and family members or our jobs. The problem is the attitude that the mind falls into when these expectations are not met. Most of us move into disappointment. And then into frustration and anger as we saw earlier.
In order to prevent this, we need to recognize that expectations aren’t being met or can never be met. We must realize that our expectations are faulty and not the thing, place, situation or person. The focus of the mind must be introverted and realize that this is an unrealistic expectations which does not match reality. Here, many people get thoroughly deflated. They lose vitality in life. I have heard statements like “Life is miserable” or “I never set goals or have any expectations because they always lead to disappointments”. This is a defeatist attitude that hides the original desire that is waiting to be fulfilled. Another popular example is “I never want to be in a relationship ever“. However, as time passes and we notice that there is a possibility that our expectations can be met by another person, then the dreams start building up.
Realize that life will disappoint you. Life is not designed to work for you. YOU have to adapt to life.
We must understand that life will disappoint us. Life is not designed to work in our favour. No. We must adapt to life. Therefore, set expectations by all means, but be wise enough to change them when you know they cannot be met. This way, the awareness shifts from the external thing to the internal process of moving towards what we want. Let’s take a practical example. Let’s say we took this job assuming that we would be reassigned to a department that we really enjoy working. Despite several discussions with your manager, this is not coming through. What do you do? We could get frustrated, disappointed and stay on. Or we could express anger, shout at the manager and walk out. Alternatively, we could tell ourselves, “So, I am not being assigned to this department. And I do want to work in this area. Let me therefore focus my energies finding a new job before I quit”. Or “I am not being assigned to this department. But it’s okay. Let me see how I can bring my best to the current department”.
This shift in awareness takes away tremendous suffering in life. We become practical. And look for solutions. Either change the situation and if that isn’t forthcoming, then we change our mental framework. This brings tremendous peace in our lives. Instead of saying “This should be like this” we move towards an attitude of “This is like this. What can I do?”. Many times this attitude may mean that we take sharp and drastic steps in our lives – we end a relationship, we quit our jobs, we move out of the city we live in – whatever it may be. But the peace and centeredness is not lost. And this can only happen when we shift the focus from our expectations (or dreams) to our actions.
Therefore, shift your perception from “This is how things/people/events should be” to This is how they are! What should I do about it?”