We all have expectations. Some of our expectations relate to self, many are connected to other people, and many concern the world in which we live. For example, most of us expect ourselves to be honest and kind in our dealings with others. We expect others to do what they say they are going to do and to show up when they say they are going to show up. We expect our world to be rational and to function in ways that are consistent with our past experiences. We make our desires and needs known to others and then if they have agreed to them, we expect them to make good on their agreements.
When other people and the world at large manifest as we expect, we hardly notice it. Expectations are fulfilled and all is right with the world. In spite of the fact that it happens so often, it seems constantly surprising to us that the world and other people don’t meet our expectations. Meeting expectations, having expectations, living up to someone’s expectations—each version of expectations carries a slightly different connotation.
Culturally, we have been shifting in our attitudes about expectations. In previous generations, expectations had largely positive connotations. It was OK to have expectations and to require that they are met, particularly if you were a boss, a parent, or the head of your household. Expectations indicated standards of performance and standards of morality that were unquestioned and the failure to fulfill these expectations was seen as unacceptable.
More recently, expectations have gotten a bad rap. We are advised that we shouldn’t expect things from other people and we shouldn’t be disappointed if they fail to meet our expectations. Even our expectations about expectations seem to have changed.
1) Do you think it is appropriate to have expectations of ourselves, others and the world? Is it better to aim high with our expectations or expect only the minimum?
2) What types of expectations do you consider legitimate and which do you consider inappropriate or illegitimate?
3) How realistic are your expectations? How do you handle it when others don’t live up to your expectations or when you fail to live up to your own?
4) If you believe it isn’t good to have expectations, in what ways do you see them as problematic?
5) Is it possible to hold our expectations lightly and change or release them when reality doesn’t conform to our wants and needs? Give examples of times you have been able to do this.
6) In what areas of your life have expectations gotten you into trouble? Are there ways you need to change or update expectations or deal with them differently?