“I don’t have any expectations.”
“Don’t go into it with expectations.”
“Expectations just lead to disappointment.”
Have you heard these? Of course you have. Have you said them yourself? Probably. I’ve never been able to buy into these, and here’s why.
We always have expectations. Period. Don’t believe me? Take a closer look.
Expectations are very subtle and mostly outside of our awareness. You don’t even know they’re lurking there. They creep in quietly and blend in with the furniture.
We talk about expectations in the Advanced Reiki Training class that I teach. Sometimes, students say, “I don’t have any expectations for this class.” Hmm….While it’s true that you may not have any information about the content of the class, you do expect there to be a class. You expect to learn something about Reiki energy and how to use it. You expect to hear from other students. You expect to listen to me talk, have some practice time for yourself, and hear from fellow learners. If you have attended my classes before, you expect me to facilitate the class, and the experiential exercises, in a particular way.
These conversations happen in my personal life too. I’ve heard men say, “Don’t have any expectations about where this relationship is going. Expectations just lead to disappointment.” I’m not buying that one either.
What they mean to say is, “Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.” Or, “You have a dream for relationship in your life. Trust yourself to know whether I fit into that dream or not.”
Through curiosity and exploration, I’ve become aware of expectations that I didn’t know I had. I have lots of great stories about this. One involves Reiki, students, and my vulnerable self.
I remember feeling uncomfortable during a practice session in this pivotal Reiki level I class. This was a student’s opportunity to practice the hand positions for treating others. I noticed that students who already had a healing practice, started noticing energies, waving their hands over the body, and otherwise doing what they’ve always done.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have enough awareness about why I felt uncomfortable, except that I knew they weren’t doing the hand positions, and I wanted them to like me. So I didn’t interfere. *shaking my head*
Sounds crazy, right? I don’t even like admitting it. But there I was, watching them work, feeling uncomfortable as I considered how best to redirect them back to Reiki. Is it really that important right now? Maybe I could say something after the practice session.
Then one of the students said something about it to me. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I know that her words snapped me back to reality. This is a Reiki class. They’ve hired me to teach them what I know and love about the Usui System of Reiki. My discomfort had seeped out of the expectation that we were going to practice the hand positions, and that’s not what unfolded.
This was a great learning experience for me. I now set the expectation directly, from the beginning, and everyone is happy and feels more confident with their Reiki practice. And so do I!
Expectations are impossible to eliminate completely. They reside in the subconscious mind and there’s nothing we can do about that. However, we CAN become aware of those expectations and work with them consciously. How do we do that?
Notice Your Feelings
Disappointment is the biggest indicator that you had an expectation. When you feel disappointed, ask yourself what your expectation was. This examination is not about beating yourself up. You did nothing wrong. Discovering the expectation is simply information for you to help you understand your experience.
Trace it Back
Can you trace it back to its source so that you can see where the expectation came from? I have found this to be particularly helpful in relationships as this is where my biggest disappointments have popped up (more on that in a minute).
Have you ever been excited about a new partnership, enjoyed texting all day, and then become anxious when suddenly stops responding with the usual frequency and depth? Or maybe you agree to meet a friend at 11:00 AM and the time keeps ticking by while you grow increasingly confused and frustrated (or worried), wondering where she is?
In both cases, the partner and the friend have helped to create your expectations. It’s not their fault. There’s no blame here. It’s just the nature of things and it’s normal to wonder, and even feel disappointed, when expectations aren’t met. Your reaction to unmet expectations depends on the meaning you ascribed to it in the first place.
Remember the guy who wasn’t texting as much and wasn’t nearly as affectionate when he did respond to you that day? It turns out that he was just busier than normal at work and very focused. Let’s change the scenario and say that he got to work and texted, “Wow. Today’s really busy. You might not hear from me much until things die down later.” Well, now you have a different set of expectations and place a different meaning on his silence. No longer are you thinking that his interest is waning or that someone else has caught his attention. Now you know that he’s thinking of you and he’s going to put his energy on work for a few hours.
Again. No blame game here. AND it’s helpful to keep in mind that relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. We influence each other. We can help people to know what to expect from us, by telling them. Likewise, asking questions gets us closer to an accurate expectation.
Ok. So we’ve covered a few key concepts about expectations. Thanks for hanging in there with me. I have a few more things to say.
First, it’s not black or white. When dealing with expectations, it’s not that we have them or we don’t. Then what is it?
Develop Accurate Expectations
Let’s go back to that friend who was late. She has a pattern of being late. Your expectations change as you learn this about her. You start expecting that she’ll show up 10-15 minutes after your agreed upon rendezvous. No need to take this personally. It’s not about you. Now you can prepare yourself by carrying a book or other project to work on while you wait for her to arrive.
A more subtle form of developing accurate expectations shows up when we meet that great guy or gal who’s recently suffered a relationship blow. He’s just starting to dip his toes in the dating pool to see what it’s like, but he’s not quite ready for another long term commitment. She wants to connect, and spend time with people, but she’s not quite ready to share her vulnerable heart again. Having accurate expectations with these explorers may keep heartbreak at bay because you didn’t start planning the wedding with your blinders on.
Hold Onto Yourself
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket with the woman who is still transitioning out of her divorce. Whatever the situation, stay connected to who you are, your priorities, and how you feel. Leaving them in a heap on the floor while you dive head first into this new endeavor is only going to leave you dazed and confused later.
Can you find that place within you that opens fully to the person, job, or new house that stands before you? If not, this may be an indication that the person/job/house is not the best fit for you right now. Move on, or move forward with an agreement that best fits what you CAN show up for. Friends instead of romantic partners? Different salary or benefit agreement? Maybe you just need seller to throw in the appliances to find your “yes.”