The great English poet Alexander Pope once said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
No expectations, no disappointment? Wouldn’t that be a fantastic life!
However, the reality for most of us is just the opposite. We run with high expectations, and as a result, we often live with significant disappointments. Especially when we live in a culture that is dramatically different than our norm, or our spouse or partner views the world ever so differently than we do.
Unmet Expectations: A Leading Cause Of Failed Relationships
Antonio Banderas captured it well when he said, “Expectation is the mother of all frustration!”
I am reminded of this every time I get behind the wheel. After driving in China for four years, I often still expect others to drive with as much thoughtful awareness as I do. Rarely are my expectations met. I get so disappointed (angry even!) when drivers creep along at 30 miles per hour in the left lane of a major highway. Or worse yet, decide at the last second to cut across four lanes of traffic to exit the highway.
“Arghhh!” I say, as I coach the driver with several blasts of my horn.
Yes, the fact is we all carry plenty of expectations — for drivers, yes, but also for our partners, children, colleagues and customers.
Realistic vs. Unrealistic Expectations?
The question we should ask is this: Are our expectations realistic or unrealistic? Given the context of the other person — their cultural roots, personality strengths or weaknesses, biases, etc. — can we really expect them to deliver according to our expectations?
If we believe our expectations are realistic, yet the other party consistently fails to deliver, we quickly lose hope that things will ever be different. At this point we tend to give up and either terminate the relationship or stay in the relationship but emotionally detach.
Those darn emotions. Like it or not, they are intimately woven into our expectations. When expectations are met, our accompanying emotions can provide so much joy and excitement. For example, think about the anticipation of getting on a plane, flying to a peaceful beach where the waves lap at your feet as you drink a margarita and watch the sun drop over the horizon. You can hardly wait to get on the plane and leave the challenges of life behind. However, if on that trip your plane is delayed a day, your luggage is lost, the hotel doesn’t have a record of your reservation and a gale force monsoon has blown into your otherwise peaceful beach, well then, that's a different outcome.
So what is the answer? Roll through life with no expectations, so as to not cause disappointment? Of course not. This is not possible and it makes for a drearily boring life.
But what if we could do things differently? Is it possible for us to manage our expectations in such a way that we reduce disappointments and increase the enjoy-life factor?
Practical Tips to Managing Expectations
Here are a few practical suggestions for managing your expectations:
- Quick Self-Assessment
- Make a list of the relationships that consume 80 percent of your time (e.g., spouse, children, customers, colleagues, etc.)
- Then create a simple chart with three columns to the right of your list: expectations, met/unmet and realistic/unrealistic
- Complete the chart by writing in your expectations for each relationship, how these expectations are being met and whether your expectations are realistic or not
- What would happen if you adjusted your expectations? Would it improve the relationship?
- Can you still maintain quality or values that are important?
- Does the other party even know your expectations?
- Is it possible that your way isn’t the only way to achieve results that both parties can agree to?
- Adjustment or Calibration
Few of us like to change or reduce our expectations. And there are times when we ought not to. But more often, it’s the right thing to do.
Go for it — freedom awaits you!
How are your expectations impacting your business?
About the AuthorTim MacDonald joined OneAccord as a Principal in 2018. He brought with him more than 25 years of senior management experience, having served in small, medium and global companies as president, vice president of sales and vice president of operations.
Prior to joining OneAccord, he started his own business, Chrysalis, in China, partnering with multinational corporations (MNCs) in the areas of supply chain, operational excellence and distribution across a variety of sectors including chemical, automotive and fast-moving consumer goods. Their clients include Bosch, Cargill and Coca-Cola.
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