Expectations meet reality

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by the ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
~ Albert Einstein

Expectations ©2022 Suzanne Bélair- Digital Art

I saw that quote this morning and it reminded me of how easy it is to label someone as either good or bad at their job in a work environment. But could it be that they are in the wrong job? Or that those expectations about what is required for the job are wrong?

Definitely! And it got me thinking about life and how we sometimes react when expectations are not met, our own or what we think others expect from us.

Expectations are the beliefs we hold about the outcomes of some events and they are often too high. Although high expectations can lead to pushing ourselves and get better at whatever skill we want to master, it can also lead to a loss of happiness and feelings of discontentment when our reality does not meet these idealised visions of how things might play out.

If we become too attached to our expectations, we are unable to see the reality of a situation. This could prevent us from taking action or making decisions that would be in our best interest.

Expectations we hold can also reduce our gratitude when they outpace our reality and we keep on expecting more, or worse, we start comparing ourselves to what we could have versus what we have, especially if this is based on idealized versions of life as seen on Instagram, FB, movies and TV shows.

We easily forget that stories on social media are someone’s best moment, often filtered and modified, as we compare it to our worst one. Plus despite appearances, we are not living other people’s reality and we don’t know what is going on in anyone’s life. We only see what they want to share. Research shows that those who spend more time on social media are generally less happy. Comparisons are always toxic and ill advised. The only person we are competing with is ourselves.

Learning how to manage our expectations is helpful when we want to avoid the trap of “Expectations versus Reality”.

As with so many things in life, the best way to do to this is with awareness. Awareness of what our expectations are, awareness of where these come from (think: upbringing, past experiences, friends and other outside’s input) and awareness of how these affect our mood and happiness.

If we are disappointed, this new perspective will lead to one of two conclusions: Either the expectation was too high or it was realistic. In the latter case, we can make a better plan for next time.

What we want, that special job or car, new clothes, a new boyfriend or girlfriend is not necessarily what will make us happy in the long term. Of course it is OK to look to something else or strive for more and take the means to get it but in the meantime we cannot forget to savour and enjoy what we have and our positive experiences.

I am a big fan of journaling and keeping a gratitude journal goes a long way towards awareness of what makes us happy with our lives. If we find that our reality is disappointingly different from what we expected, let’s look at all that we have and are grateful for. When sad, we frequently forget all that is good in our life. Opening our journal and reading past entries always brings us back to what is positive, brings us joy and often triggers new ideas and blessings.

And when we get disappointed, and this will no doubt happen at one point or another, let’s acknowledge and accept it. All of our emotions are parts of ourselves and are valid, whether we perceive them as good or bad. They will pass and be replaced by other ones eventually. Accepting our emotions is not always easy but putting them down on paper helps, makes them real and even transform them.

Finally, there is merit in striving for more and it can incite us to work harder and smarter and perform our best. But we have to remain careful to not let this rob us of the joy of the present moment, especially if we expect things to come easier than expected or if our efforts don’t lead us to where we anticipated.

Life is fluid and full of surprises. In the end, I believe the best outcome always happens and we have to welcome this and make peace with it. Increasing our awareness of our expectations and the effect they have on our feelings frees us from disappointment and the stress that follow unrealised unrealistic expectations.

With Love


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