Working with clients, I can identify a major source of stress in life and breakdowns in relationships:

Unmet and unrealized expectations.

Think about it. How many times in your life have you felt angry, frustrated, unheard, disregarded, or disrespected because you had an expectation of something going one way and it went another?

You may even be carrying around some grudges from past unmet expectations.

I haven’t perfected it, but I’ve learned to manage expectations by having a clear internal conversation about them ahead of time. Managing my expectations greatly reduces my disappointment.

I ask the questions:

How do I want this to go? How do I want to show up?

When something goes completely off track, it’s tempting to think another person let me down, but if I’m honest, I let myself down.

If I wasn’t clear about what I needed or what I wanted, it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

So now I ask myself at the beginning of each week and again at the beginning of each day, how do I want this to go?

I imagine how I want to show up and how I’ll react to different possible outcomes in the upcoming week and day.

Here’s how is looks in practice:

Getting clear on how I want to spend my time and energy creates order and boundaries that lead to me getting more accomplished.

Deciding ahead of time what state I’m going to be in when I make a difficult phone call sets me up for more success, or at least less stress.

Recognizing what choices keep me feeling good and being healthy, it’s easier for me to say “no” to temptations that pop up.

Setting intentions and expectations with myself cuts down on trying to figure it all out on the fly.

How do I want this conversation to go?
How do I want this vacation to go?
How do I want this relationship to go?

Remember, I’m getting clear on how I’m going to show up. I’m not setting expectations about how other people will react, because that’s up to them, not me.

Asking the other people who are part of the situation is a good practice too.

Get clear and in agreement on different people’s roles and expectation aheadof time.

What are other people expecting? Who’s responsible for what? What does success mean to the other people involved?

“What would make this a fun vacation for you?”

“What do you need from me? Here’s what I need from you…”

Speak clearly and unambiguously about what you expect.

A major set up for disappointment and frustration is to think the other person “should just know.”

That never works. The other person has no responsibility to “just know” what you want.

Hints won’t cut it. Passive aggressive comments only confuse the situation even more. Getting angry silently or out loud just makes the situation worse.

There are 7,714,576,923 people in the world, all with different tastes, talents, expectations, and ideas. We all see the world through our own filters and experiences.

None of those people are going to “just know” what you expect. Heck, you might not even know yourself what you expect.

“We should remember that the world is wide…Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it, — determined not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor even when it is, unless the offense be against God.” — Mary Baker Eddy

Finally, get real about your expectations.

Are they realistic?

Look, I’m as deep into the power of positivity as anyone, but setting unrealistic expectations with impossible timelines is going to leave everyone with a wet diaper.

Am I expecting more than the other person can give? Am I expecting different results when nothing else has changed?Am I expecting more than what’s necessary?

Also, what are the motivations behind the expectation?

An unhealthy motivation is going to lead to disappointment every time.

What’s an unhealthy motivation?

Any motivation that doesn’t line up with your ethics, and values to start. So if you’ve cheated the system, even just a bit, don’t wonder why you don’t feel fulfilled by your success.

Motivations driven by what the ego is demanding usually don’t end well either. If your ego needs someone to treat you a certain way, that eventually will lead to unmet expectations.

“The mental arrow shot from another’s bow is practically harmless, unless our own thought barbs it. It is our pride that makes another’s criticism rankle, our self-will that makes another’s deed offensive, our egotism that feels hurt by another’s self-assertion.” — Mary Baker Eddy

Even with checking your expectations, surprises are still going to happen.

Set your expectations ahead of time about how you’ll react if expectations fall apart.

How are you going to show up in the face of unexpected disappointment, boredom, or even success?

Thinking about it ahead of time puts tools in your toolbox so you’ll have choices when the time comes.

Afterall, it’s when we’re squeezed that our nature is revealed. What do you want to show the world?

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