Our Expectations Are The Problem

  • Expecting that life will turn out the way we want it to be is a sure-fire way to experience disappointment, because life does not check our expectations before happening.
  • If our unfulfilled expectations involve other people who have ‘failed’ to behave how we expected them to, we are making a critical mistake by getting angry about it.
  • If we are not angry if the cup of coffee we expected from ourselves did not materialize, then why do we get angry if someone else did not make us one?
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Self Improvement



Before expecting something, we have to understand two psychological facts:

  1. Merely expecting something will not make it happen.
  2. If we hope to have our expectations fulfilled and those hopes do not have a valid reason, there is bound to be a disappointment.

Example: We start driving and expect to reach by 15 minutes, but due to construction work on the road, we get late and feel resentful.

Psychologist Jean Piaget found that young children have expectations and believe that their thoughts have direct effects on the things around them, something referred to as Magical Thinking.

According to the psychologist, we outgrow this tendency by age 7, but it is clear that many adults keep believing that their thoughts affect their surroundings, as evident by the popularity of the Law Of Attraction books.

We cannot even understand ourselves, so it is futile to think that we can fully understand other people.

  • Normally, we would not do something inconsistent with our values and goals, so we cannot demand others to fulfill our expectations if it is not consistent with their own interests.
  • We also fail to realize how the other person may resent us for expecting something they cannot fulfill.
  • A better option is to let go of expectations and find something positive, something you are grateful for.
  • If things don’t turn out the way you wanted to, you will feel serenity, not resentment.

Expectations sound logical when things are in our own hands, but expecting others to behave in a certain way will not automatically make it so. And when our expectations are not lived up to by others, we feel shocked and resentful.

These resentments become premeditated, as we set them up ourselves, albeit unconsciously. Example: Ordering medium-rare steak at a restaurant, but ending up being served a well done one.

Just merely using magic thinking and expecting something is not going to get us anything, setting us up for eventual disappointment. If we want something to happen, we have to take the necessary steps to facilitate the same.

Example: Simply wishing for a cup of coffee will not make it come to us. We have to get up from the bed and actually make it in the kitchen.

  • Not speaking to others or having zero communication about one’s expectations is almost guaranteed to make it a failure.
  • Open communication is essential to improve the chances of one’s expectations becoming a reality, but that is also not enough.
  • Merely communicating something to the other person and expecting it to be done is an unrealistic expectation by itself, if it is not in the interest of the other person.

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Whether you want to be happy or improve your performance at work, it would be useful to improve how you manage expectations to create the right dopamine levels.

  • The best way to manage your expectations is to start to pay attention to them and be proactive in regulating your emotions.
  • Set the scene for good performance rather than fixing problems when they go wrong.
  • Keep your expectations low but also pay attention to positive expectations you know will be met.
Why expectations hurt

We often fantasize about the day when things will finally go our way. We have highly positive expectations of the future, but once what we expected did not match our reality we feel hurt and lost.

Expectations frustrate us when we idealize a certain future but our actions and our behavior is not in accordance to what we were expecting for. Oftentimes our behavior falls short of our standards.

Falling in love

To us, being loved in a relationship is perhaps the highest ideal. It gives our lives meaning and purpose. Being loved validates our sense of self-esteem and soothes our fears of loneliness.

Our brains are also wired to fall in love. Dopamine provides a natural high and ecstatic feeling that can be as addictive as cocaine. 

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