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What if...

Sep 08, 2023

What if you dropped all expectations of everyone, including yourself?  What would happen if you did that?

I was recently asked to contemplate this question, to reflect on it and journal about it, just to see what came up. It was such an interesting thought exercise, I wanted to pass it along.  Give it a try.

What I realized is how much expectation can rule your thoughts, your perceptions, your judgments of others and about yourself as well. We often create expectations in our minds, even if we are not consciously aware of them.  And, just as often, they lead to disappointment, frustration, and even anger. 

When you set an expectation about a certain outcome, and the result falls short, how do you react? Think about your team members, your colleagues, even your boss. How do they disappoint you? What do they say or do that makes you feel frustrated?

If you think about this, you may find that your reaction was based on an expectation you had, that may not have been expressed or communicated in any way. So, other people can disappoint you, even if they did not have the advantage of knowing what expectations you had of them. If you have ever had the experience of having someone react to something you said or did – and it caught you completely off guard – it was probably because they had an expectation that you were not aware of.

Under the category of “I wish I knew then what I know now,” I remember an instance of walking into my boss’s office and being verbally attacked.  He was clearly enraged, and I had no clue what had set him off. I knew enough to not meet him with the same level of intensity, so I waited it out. And then, I asked him if he felt better, if he was prepared to have a calm and reasonable conversation about what he was so angry about, or I was going to leave the room.  He did calm down, and it turned out, it was not even about me. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Reflecting back, it’s clear to me that he had expectations that weren’t being met, and I could have been more helpful in resolving his anger and frustration, but I didn’t know any better.  The point is, when people react in unexpected ways, it may be best to give them some grace and understanding, instead of rushing to judgment.

So, what would happen if you dropped expectations of others, or even became more aware of expectations you may not have adequately communicated? Would it create less negative judgment about the motives of others?  Would it ease your level of disappointment and frustration?

As you reflect on this question, be sure to include the expectations you have for yourself.  How much clarity do you have about those? And how often do you turn your anger or frustration inward and engage in negative self talk? That tendency can be really counter-productive.  Remember to give yourself some grace and understanding too.

Let me know how this thought exercise works for you.  What came up? What surprised you? And, be sure to share this post with others who could benefit by taking some time to reflect on this question.





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