Coming up on the end of the year here, I want to talk about expectations. Every year around this time there is a lot of hype around New Year's resolutions and making plans for the year ahead.
After a year like 2020, now more than ever you might be hoping and waiting for something "better".
Learning how to manage your expectations can help you bring them into alignment with your highest good - so they become another tool rather than a pain point.
The most common question I get around the topic of expectations is: "Is it better to have low expectations, high expectations, or NO expectations?"
Having your expectations is one thing, but what you do with them is another. Let me explain...
First, let's define expectations.
Essentially, your expectations are what you are anticipating from the future. They're tied in to your subconscious beliefs, such as I have to work hard and suffer to make a decent living, therefore I expect my job to be grueling.
How you anticipate your life will play out has a profound effect on your energy, emotional state, and consequently on your physical well-being.
The thing is, we have expectations for just about everything in our lives — our partners, relationships, work, and so much more. These anticipated outcomes influence our reactions and responses to situations.
Pause and take a moment to think about what expectations you have around these things.
Do you expect work to be boring and suck?
Do you expect to be so busy with the things that have to get done that you won't have time for the things you want to do?
Do you expect your partner to disappoint you? Your kid to disobey you?
Your coffee to spill on you on your way out the door because, "Of course that would happen to me."
The cool thing about expectations is that you have a choice and complete control over them, BUT you have to choose to take it.
Expectations have the power to paint the picture of your reality. This can obviously go one of two ways: by the laws of attraction you can invite in the energy of a joyous life experience, or you can create the pain that you fear is inevitable.
What I really want you to consider here is: are your expectations helping you grow, or are they limiting your life experience?
Expectations can be limiting when they cause more anxiety than they do motivate us.
Let's explore "High Expectations"...
Like I said above, your expectations are not all bad - they can help you manifest the reality you want to create, and they can also serve as important life lessons.
They can motivate you to do better and work a little harder when it's in alignment. It can also be really rewarding when you achieve that outcome you were so desperately hoping for.
When you are aware of your expectations, you have insight into your subconscious beliefs (more importantly your self-limiting beliefs) that you're holding onto that need to be addressed.
Is your high expectation a realistic one based on truth? What happens if this anticipated outcome is not fulfilled?
The emotional response in this case usually isn't super pleasant. Perhaps frustration, disappointment, anger, regret, and/or depression creep in. Consequently, on a physical level you'll begin to contract, which will affect your flow of energy.
Now for the "Low Expectations"...
When you're expecting a "negative" outcome from a situation, you're absolutely setting yourself up to live in that reality.
You've likely heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy, which is the process through which an originally false expectation leads to its own confirmation. In a self-fulfilling prophecy an individual's expectations about another person or entity eventually result in the other person or entity acting in ways that confirm the expectations.
Why does this happen? You restrict your energy flow by holding onto any fears and negative beliefs, thus lowering your vibration.
You might be coming from a place of prior pain, trauma and/or disappointment, and you don't want to set yourself up for that again. Remember, unfulfilled outcomes can lead to some low vibrational emotions.
With that being said, to me, it's more important to approach a situation with an open mind. Learn to trust that it will work out for your highest good.
If, from your perspective, it didn't work out in what you believed to be your favor, is there a lesson in that?
Can we effectively "manage" expectations?
Expectations, whether they be positive or negative, inherently rob us from the experience of the present moment. When you're focused on the anticipated outcome, you're missing out on what's happening right now; you can't be focused on both at the same time.
The most meaningful example from my own life is from the pregnancy I lost earlier this year. As a parent who already had a normal, easy, healthy pregnancy prior to this experience, when I got pregnant again I was definitely expecting a positive outcome.
When the first red flag came up at the 8-week ultrasound, I was really torn. Do I try to stay positive and hope for the best? Do I start preparing myself for the worst now so I'm not disappointed if this doesn't work out? But what if that somehow becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? I'm not gonna lie, that was a really hard place to be in.
I ultimately took the position to just try and trust that however it worked out, it would be for the best. Did it work out how I wanted at the time? Ask me then and I'd have given you a solid, "fuck no." Ask me now and I will tell you that it worked out exactly how it needed to.
By being mindful and staying connected to my internal compass, I was able to learn the lesson - that I don't have complete control over every aspect of my life, and that is something I needed to surrender to.
Could I have done anything differently to produce a different outcome? Nope. Was it still painful and full of emotion? Yup. Remember guys, this is not about escaping difficult situations or feelings, it's about learning to live through them while staying in flow.
Releasing expectations allows you to live in the moment and embrace experiences without judgement.
Once you can release and let go of hindering thoughts, fears and beliefs, you are able to think with more clarity and make more positive, creative, loving and healthy choices for yourself and your life.
What you can do to avoid falling into the trap of expectations:
Take a step back from a consistently disappointing experience and looking at whether or not you're starting from a realistic place. This will help you adjust your perspective in such a way to more accurately match reality and potentially get a different outcome.
Reflect on some key questions:
Do I have an expectation about this person or situation?
Where is it coming from?
Is it motivating me to be better, or is it causing me stress and anxiety?
What will happen if this expectation is or isn't fulfilled?
Take a few steps back from your situation; can you see it through a different lens?
Learn to navigate unmet expectations.
The nature of reality is that things change, straight up. Sometimes an unexpected circumstance will come along to shift the scope of a situation, and expectations will need to be adjusted.
The key is to recognize that when this happens, you have a choice. You can:
A. React emotionally, with anger and resistance, or
B. Apply mindfulness, pause and consider your options before making a decision about how best to proceed.
This doesn't mean ignore or suppress emotions that arise - you want to consciously note your frustration, accept it and respond rather than react.
With mindfulness of your feelings, you can calm yourself down and start problem-solving about how to handle the implications and manage expectations accordingly.
So does that mean you don't want to set some goals for the upcoming year and kick 2021's ass? Of course not!
But be more committed to the process than the outcome, and incorporate regular mindfulness practice so you are equipped when things inevitably take you by surprise because you know it will.
Does the idea of managing your expectations feel far-fetched for you, or even a little overwhelming? I'm here to help! These are some of the many things we work through in the Integrative Healing Sessions. Start with a free 15-minute consult and we'll go from there :).