One thing that I come to realize again and again, is that we often “set ourselves up” for disappointment. I am not saying that it is out FAULT when someone wrongs us; however, the expectations we set on others in our lives is often unrealistic. When we enter into a situation in which we expect someone to ________________ (help us, complete a task, be on time, remember something), we are much more likely to be disappointed because, let’s face it: we are all human. I honestly don’t think that others “drop the ball” with malicious intent; rather, they are absent minded or on auto-pilot and simply forget. Don’t we all do that? I know that it isn’t uncommon for me to get busy or distracted!
Another way that we set ourselves up for disappointment with our expectations is when we enter into an experience having already decided what we think SHOULD happen. This happens in all settings (from parties, work, family gatherings, dinners, even alone time! If we go into it with our ideals of what we want to see happen, we are likely to be let down…as reality has a way of throwing us a curve ball!
What I propose, is that you work on being more experimental and curious in your approach rather than rigid. If you can enter into the situation in a low emotion, laid back and open minded manner, you are MUCH more likely to have a pleasant time! Think about it…if the bar is set high, others (or experiences) are likely to fall short of our hopes for them. (Example: if you have ever read the book BEFORE seeing the movie…you are usually let down because movies have to cut details out in order to fit the time parameters. They also put the directors interpretation on the characters, not your own). If we have a blank slate, we either stay neutral or are pleasantly surprised!
Let me give you a scenario:
- You have a work meeting to attend and you are aware of the delegated tasks for everyone. You have done your work and EXPECT that everyone else did their work to the same caliber. You walking into the meeting to learn that Susie forgot to finalize a few plans and Robert didn’t know he was supposed to make a call. Your blood pressure increases, you are silently judging them. You begin experiencing muscle tension and clench your jaw. This irritation follows you all day and you end up with a migraine headache. This headache prohibits you from going to the gym to de-stress. The next day when you go to work, you are full of resentment for Susie and Robert. The cycle continues and you begin to dread work.
- Let’s take the same meeting. You drive to work listening to music that you enjoy. You remember there is a meeting and mentally review what was delegated to you. You realize that you have had a stressful week and silently pray that you completed your tasks. In the meeting you learn that two co-workers didn’t get their tasks done. You start to get irritated but then you remember that you have been in their shoes and as they don’t typically drop the ball, you make an assumption that they must have a lot going on and you EMPATHIZE with them. After the meeting you go to Susie’s desk and ask if everything is ok. She reveals that her husband lost his job and she has been overwhelmed all week. You offer to help and she takes you up on it. You go back to your desk with gratitude that your stressors are manageable and you feel good for helping a co-worker. The rest of the day goes smoothly and you are able to get to the gym and relax at yoga.
The same logic can be applied to almost all settings. The goal isn’t that you get accustomed to people letting you down, that you begin to expect that or that you are a doormat. The goal is that you keep in mind that real life is happening to all people at all times which will affect their ability to meet your needs. It is also about the fact that even if someone DOES intentionally offend or let you down, getting intensely angry about it doesn’t do anything productive. It is similar to the quote that says “revenge (or resentment) is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”. We can certainly keep our eyes out for patterns of behavior, and use that to discern between people who are productive or non-productive to be around; however, getting all caught up in judging them is not helpful.