Expectations – Mother of All Muck-ups or Vital Ingredient of Life?

Manage Your Expectations A late night tweet from me saying “Happiness is yours when you learn to manage your expectations from/of others and make it a preference instead of a need” brought on a flurry of retweets and replies from people.

As it turns out, I’m not alone when it comes to expecting things and being disappointed when I don’t get what I want. Astonishing, isn’t it ;)?

Anyone who’s ever felt the same way, wiggle your pinkie finger now!

Hm, why do I KNOW you’d just as easily as me lay a wager on our expectations being the root cause of most unhappiness? Feel free to say it isn’t so if I’m being presumptuous.

In my experience, there are various types of expectations – from expecting love, respect, dignity, and justice, to expecting people to do certain things for you whether they like it or not, treat you like a prince/princess, spend more time with you than their friends, come home on time, buy you gifts, etc.

But here’s the thing. I’m not saying any of these are good or bad.

They just are what they are and will affect your mojo as much as you let them.

It’s when some expectations start affecting the quality of your daily life experiences and relationships and lead to disappointment, anger, insecurity, fear, grief, frustration, doubt and worry, that you might want to step back and ask yourself a few questions. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the cesspool of blame and disappointment, that is.

Questions that might go somewhat like:

  • Am I expecting too much from others?
  • WHY do I need that (from them)?
  • What am I asking others for that I’m not giving to myself?
  • What do I really want that’s behind these wants? I.e, do I want to be heard, loved, seen, respected, nurtured, validated?
  • Recognise the desire beneath the want. Then decide if it’s a non-negotiable or a whim.

What next? How can you go about learning to *manage* your expectations (and should you even do that?).

Call it acknowledging, changing, reframing, or anything you like but know that you create your reality and can choose to expect with attachment or detachment – that will be a big factor in how you ultimately experience it.

And while we’re at it,

Realise that no matter who you are, NO one owes you anything.

Yes, it’s bloody fantastic when people meet our expectations, just be aware that it won’t happen all the time and neither is that healthy. If you always got what you wanted, then what about others’ wants that might clash with yours? And where would your learning come from?

Make it a preference instead of a need.

Preference = unattached to outcome. Need = attached to outcome.

When there is a preference you would like something to be a certain way but regardless, your happiness doesn’t depend on it.

When you *need* something, you’re creating and focusing on the lack around you and letting it control your happy button.

Us humans will always have wants, needs, desires and expectations, some of which will come to fruition and some that won’t. If the ultimate goal is happiness, then consider this as one more tool to help you along the way.

What role do expectations play in YOUR life? Was there a time you successfully changed an expectation that was keeping you stuck and what was the result? Looking forward to hearing your insights and experiences!

Facebook comments:



  1. says

    Nice one!!

    Years ago I read that the philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca believed one should give up having expectations of other people if one wanted to avoid being disappointed or angered. That totally made sense to me, and became something I aimed for (didn’t always succeed!!)

    He once said “The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty.”

    But you take it another step further – I love how you make the distinction between expectation with attachment (what I think Seneca is talking about) and expectation without attachment (a WAY better feeling!!)

    So in that spirit, I’m expecting more of the lovely rain we’ve been having all day; I’m expecting my Pilates session tomorrow to be fun and easy and painfree; I’m expecting my return to work tomorrow (after a long long weekend) to be smooth and easy; and I’m expecting to have the best night’s sleep tonight.

    And I don’t NEED any of them. Woohoo!!

  2. says

    Well said, Janette – there’s tremendous manifesting and creative power in our expectations, right? So to give them up completely seems like a lost opportunity.

    Tia’s getting to the heart of it when she leads us to understand that it isn’t the positive expectation that’s the problem, it’s the NEED for the thing that muddies the waters.

    I expect this will generate much conversation, so I’ll limit my comments to this and check back later!

    Great post, Tia!

  3. says

    Thanks Jannette and Jeannette (haha try saying that out real fast, soul sistahs!) I did try to make the distinction between expectations that serve us such as when we expect our desires to manifest LOA style, and those that we could take a second look at esp when they aren`t serving us or those around us.

    The tricky part is knowing what part of it is healthy and what`s ego based. Is it really possible not to have expectations from other people? Isn`t having some a good thing? How else would someone know what we want?

    I`d be interested to hear some more perspectives on this. Thanks for chiming in you two.

  4. says

    Ohhh, Tia, great post!

    This is especially important when it comes to relationships, because it is so easy to think others are responsible for making us happy… They’re not! Only we can make ourselves happy, period. No matter what’s going on in the relationship (whether it be romantic, at work, etc.), it’s up to us to get in a good feeling place and maintain our positive vibe.

    I especially liked this question you asked: “What am I asking others for that I’m not giving to myself?” It’s SOOO important to remember that we have to give ourselves love, attention, kindness, etc. before others will give it to us! I’m working on that one myself right now. The good news is, it gets easier with time:)

    Thanks for the great reminder that we are always at the root of our own happiness! 🙂

  5. says

    I always love your comments Mary, they re-inforce so many concepts we tend to forget about.

    “It’s SOOO important to remember that we have to give ourselves love, attention, kindness, etc. before others will give it to us!” – what you want from others, first give to yourself, If you want the right guy, be prepared to be the right girl. And vice versa. The easier it gets, the easier it gets! 😀 Right with you sista!

    Thanks for adding your beautiful energy to this topic!

  6. says

    Thanks for sharing this, Tia.

    The difference between expectations and preference is the element of “need”. And for most people it usually implies the focusing on the lack of something. When we tend to need something we tend to believe that if we don’t have it we will be lacking in some way, rather than in having it as a “preference”.

    It’s the “need” that brings the heaviness into it. In personal relationships this is when relationships can feel “heavy” and an element of obligation comes into it. And when there are vibrations as such as those, it’s not conducive to the most joyful and loving and fun places necessarily.

    I agree with Tia, that nothing is good or bad other than the meaning you give it and the effect it has for you.

    And of course we’re not just talking about relationships here, we are talking about preferences and needs for ANYTHING in your experience – it is about the relationship between you and anything and everything else.

    > Realise that no matter who you are, NO one owes you anything.

    Because if you think someone owes you something, in that assumption you are also underestimating your own Power.

    Thanks Tia 🙂

  7. says

    Hemal, thank you for adding so much to this topic!

    I appreciate your thoughts about needing leading to lack and heaviness in life and relationships. It’s something to be aware of on a constant basis (I almost said need to be aware of *hehe* but it’s a preference, not a need right!). Gosh, how easy it is to forget that.

    Wondering if you or anyone else has tips and ideas on how else to manage “needs” and turn them into preferences? I just know there’s more to it ..

  8. says

    I keep coming back to the old NLP adage: Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources available to them.

    I say this in a prayer like meditation several times a day and it makes such a difference in my life. When you accept that what may serve to frustrate, anger or even just annoy us about others generally has nothing to do with us, it helps to clear away all of those expectations.

    It is so freeing not to find ourselves tied to the struggles others are facing, and taking it personally when they fail to live up to expectations. Ours or theirs.

    Why would any of us want to tie our own sense of well being to the inner struggles of not just anyone, but everyone else?!

    I often tie this line of thought with one of my Ho’oponopono meditations with amazing and freeing results.

    Thanks for this post! Amazing stuff!!

  9. says

    Jim, I love that you tied NLP into this! Yes, we are all doing the best we can with resources available to us. And when more resources become available to us, then we have an opportunity to expand our thinking and practice new ways of relating to others and us.

    Thanks for reminding us that often, what bothers us about others has NOTHING to do with them, and everything to do with our own stuff. I like to pick up an imaginary mirror and ask “what about this person or situation bothers me” and “what does it mean for my own growth, where do I have some learning to do”?

    And I’ll find some limiting belief or unacknowledged fear which has been muddying up my vibe. Then it’s simply a matter of working through it and changing it to something more useful.

    Another FANTASTIC point you made was about “not taking it personally”. I so want to repeat that again – it’s not personal!!

    When people fail to live up to expectations, it is NOT about you, it’s about them (in that, they aren’t doing it on purpose to hurt you, it’s their own personal living out of their journey).

    And in the same vein, it’s not about them, it’s about YOU (and your expectations, which only you can manage)

    Whew, I feel like I just got off a merry-go-round 😀

    “Why would any of us want to tie our own sense of well being to the inner struggles of not just anyone, but everyone else?!” Indeed, when it can be challenging enough to tie it to our own selves!

    “I often tie this line of thought with one of my Ho’oponopono meditations with amazing and freeing results.” ——– Any chance we can get you to share your favourite meditation with us? I would LOVE that! Thank you for such an interesting discussion Jim, you just took us to a whole new level.

  10. MissyB says

    I really must remember to come here as often as I do Jeannette’s site now – you both have some amazin stuff.

    As I sit and type my only real expectations that come to light surround people. I remember a quote along the lines of its not people that let you down, its your expectations of people that let you down. This has served me well, but I do fear I may get walked on because I discount any wrong doing because I blame my expectations for being too high. Or if I ask for help and it is not forthcoming, I blame myself for asking. Think there may be some confidence issues there !

    I’ve a prime example – I had a nasty accident last year and a friend bent over to help me – he was a true star. I’ve slowly recovered and his attention has waned. 7 months on and I’ve just had an operation to fix my collar bone. I’ve obviously taken a major step back on the feeling poorly front. Where is he ? Hardly anywhere to be seen. I expected the love and attention I had last time – and my expectations are high of the mark. I am not his responsibility.
    I am, however, stronger from his lack of attention – so I obviously found the love from within I needed.

    Thanks Tia – this is one of the best posts in recent weeks to resonate with me.

  11. says

    Missy, what an absolute pleasure to have you here!

    You brought up an important distinction here “I do fear I may get walked on because I discount any wrong doing because I blame my expectations for being too high.” It can be tricky, this one but a good way to know what the boundary is by asking yourself if YOU would treat someone that way.

    If someone is saying or doing something that doesn’t make you feel good, it could be time to go within and ask your body / intuition what it feels. Our bodies are much wiser (omg I almost typed wider, LOL) than we give them credit for and getting in touch with your senses is one way to start trusting your intuition.

    Thanks for sharing your example about your accident Missy. You are one heck of a brave woman to realise you wanted, but ultimately didn’t NEED this friend’s attention. Kudos to you for finding it within yourself!

    I’ll bet you anything that this brings you more love and attention but the best part is, you’ll appreciate it without needing it – freedom!! 😀

    I remember as a kid, whenever I got sick, my mum’s attention would be on me 100% – she’d sit up all night cold-compressing my fevered brow and it was this amazing experience of being totally loved and cared for (inspite of the delirium!). To this day, when I get sick I want her! Of course now I’m all growed up so I’ve learned to care for myself.

    Guess what I’m saying here is that we don’t need to be sick to love or care for ourselves the way we wish someone else would.

    We can practice self-love everyday! Of course it’s great to be looked after but it’s when we don’t expect it that it comes as a touching, heartfelt gesture. And when we demand it, somehow it still doesn’t feel good as it would if it came from the heart.

    I’m so honoured to have you here and would love to hear from you again. Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing, Missy xo

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