How do our expectations influence our happiness?
Expectations is defined as: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future (don't you just love when paragraphs start off with a definition?) This month, we will focus our video series on expectations, those that we have for ourselves, for others, for our futures, etc.
First, let's talk about the expectations that have for ourselves. These expectations are often extremely high, things like "I should never be unhappy," or "i should be able to do everything." The problem with this is that our expectations are often unachievable, and because we believe that they "should" happen, we often feel as though we have failed. In the therapy community, we call this a cognitive distortion, to believe in a long list of "shoulds," which are usually not possible. That being said, I am not suggesting that you do not have expectations for yourself, quite the contrary. We should always try to have high expectations, we also have to give ourselves a little bit of grace if we are not able to meet our expectations, and we should not treat ourselves as though we are failures if we do not meet them.
Then let's talk about our expectations for others. We often have expectations for others that, much like for ourselves, are much too high, or are unattainable. And then when people fail to meet our expectations, as they will inevitably do, we are angry with them. This is often true for our romantic partners, friends, and even with our children. The problem with this is that, first, it may not be their expectation. If you are angry with your child for not getting straight A's, you might stop and consider whether or not they are even working towards that as a goal. Second, we are not "in" anyone elses head, and we should always assume that people are giving 100% of their ability, so if someone is not living up to your expectations, it may have less to do with them, and more to do with what you have decided they should be able to do.
Expectations for the future is a tricky one. It is interesting to me to talk with people about their expectations for the future. I think that it is about a 50/50 split. About half the people I talk with believe that everything is going to be great, because of all the things they are going to "do," which is, as you can imagine, one of those lists that we can not ever get through. Some people expect that life will never get any better, and not in a good way. Neither of these is a healthy view point. Life can always be better, but it can only be better as long as we live in reality and accept what we can actually do.
Expectations are tricky, and it is often hard for us to make good decisions about what we should expect from ourselves and others. I encourage you to stop and think about what you expect from yourself and others, and to really try and think about whether or not it is realistic to actually think that you can meet those goals!