Preparation for Healing: Manage Your Expectations

Once you’ve set clear intentions, it becomes easier to manage your expectations. You know what you aspire to accomplish. You know how you want to behave during the process of reaching that aspiration. You know how long you’ve committed to the intentions. You know how you’ll measure success. With the process in place, all you need to do is follow your intentions. You can let go of anything you expect to happen along the way or when you reach your aspiration.

It is not necessary to have expectations in order to accomplish what you hope to accomplish. I mention expectations because they can be a real stumbling block. It bears repeating that it is not necessary to have expectations, even high ones, in order to improve your life.

What is an expectation?

An expectation is something you believe is likely to happen or you anticipate will happen. An expectation can also be something you believe should happen because of your efforts, position, relationships, or view of the world.

Why do expectations matter?

If you are going to begin healing, it is important to know the process may take an extended period of time. That doesn’t mean you won’t see incremental improvement quickly, it just means that once you reach the length of time to which you’ve committed, you may find that you need to commit more time in order to make lasting change.

If you were raised in dysfunction, your expectations of normal and acceptable may not be aligned with healthy or productive.

If you have an internal expectation of failure, your behavior and effort will reflect that. If you have an awareness of this possibility, you can counteract your tendency to invite failure.

If you expect things to be one certain way and they are not, you may tend to focus on what’s wrong (wrong as in it doesn’t look like what you expected) and miss out on any abundance and joy that are present.

If you expect negative feedback, the manner in which you solicit input will reflect that and can mean you get exactly what you expect.

If you have lived a privileged life, you may expect other people to adapt to you. This can prevent you from seeing the effect you have on others.

If you have lived with neglect, you may expect and allow mistreatment that keeps you from being kind to yourself.

If you expect others to harm you, you will not be able to receive help, encouragement, or have a sense of support from the community.

If you expect to be treated as less than, your behavior will reflect that and it will be difficult to treat you as an equal.

If you feel inadequate to a task, you may perceive unspoken expectations as pressure or stress.
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None of those apply to me, so why would I need to manage expectations?

We live in a culture in which we’re bombarded by messages that promise an absolute and specific outcome if we will buy into a certain product or approach. We believe if we participate, we should get the promised result. Advertisers sweeten the pot by telling us it will happen FAST! We come to expect not just the promised outcome, but the promised outcome right now! Who doesn’t want the desired result immediately?!

Weight loss and fitness programs are famous for making such promises. Pharmaceutical ads promise quick relief from depression through medication. Some psychiatrists prescribe medication for PTSD in lieu of yoga, somatic experiencing, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, consecutive counting and talk therapy. Some physicians prescribe meds in place of attempting dietary changes to treat diabetes, reflux, or IBS. Physicians are now having to rethink the tendency to overprescribe opioid pain medication without trying other options first.

It’s seductive to believe that anything we want to achieve can be had immediately, without effort. In rare cases that may happen. It is not common. On some level, we know this whether or not our behavior reflects this knowledge.

Unfortunately, when we believe hype, try a quick fix and then fail to sustain any lasting resulting change, we may create an internal expectation that our efforts are futile, nothing will work, and change is not possible. This limiting expectation can prevent us from trying again.

And it’s not uncommon to stop trying. You probably know someone who has prevented herself from doing something because of an expectation that she won’t be successful or trying is futile – asking for a raise, asking for a date, getting a higher degree, applying for a dream job, doing yoga, starting a band, starting a business, cooking, setting boundaries for family visits, auditioning for a lead role, painting, skiing, or learning to fly? Limiting expectations come in many forms and are a powerful impediment to healing and improving your life.

If you’re a planner like me, you’d probably like a guarantee that things will turn out a certain way. After all, you put in a lot of effort to explore options and create the best plan. The reality is that life brings no guarantees. You can minimize risk, but you can never anticipate every possibility that will come along to change the end result. If you become too attached to your expectation of that end result, it can create tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision takes you out of the present and blinds you to the opportunities that are happening around you at any given moment. These opportunities are often where growth occurs. The present gives us moments where we can build resilience, self-trust, and fearlessness. If we miss those, we make the overall journey take longer.

The other problem with being too attached to a specific outcome is that as you grow what was once acceptable to you may become unacceptable. That means your desired outcome may not reflect your growth and may inadvertently hold you back.

I know it’s hard to let go of the idea that specific outcomes are not all that important. It’s often hammered into us by our parents, teachers, bosses, and pastors that meeting a certain list of expectations is critical. Sometimes that many people can be misinformed. Sometimes using fear to manage diverse groups is ingrained in cultural institutions.

Unfortunately, many cultural forces converge to make it more comfortable, and in many ways easier, to exist in an unhealthy state so long as we meet superficial expectations than it is to heal and thrive. It’s counterintuitive to our rhetoric. It’s counterproductive to our desire to live healthy, rewarding lives. And yet, it’s a reality for many of us.

Again, I’ve thrown a lot at you. Hopefully, you read something here that prompts a helpful insight. Increased awareness is a beginning point for improvement. And you can just ditch the expectations. They’re not necessary for you to heal!

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/201011/parenting-expectations-success-benefit-or-burden

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cui-bono/201802/the-psychology-expectations

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201408/new-treatments-may-deliver-immediate-relief-depression

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/let-surprised/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/made-love-served-kindness/

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