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Have you planned something and it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to?

Are you disappointed with people because they don’t do what they say?

Do you expect other people to react or reply to you on social media when you post something?

Some people say that if you have no expectations, then you will have no disappointment. “No expectations, no disappointment.” Is this true?

No Expectations, No Disappointments: What Causes Disappointment?

“If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.” from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

Disappointment is caused when one’s hopes and expectations aren’t satisfied. Whenever you have an expectation, no matter how small it is, there’s always a possibility it won’t be met. Hence, the risk of being disappointed.

Life is never linear. You can plan your life with great details, but you can’t be sure it will follow through all the time. In fact, life has its own plan for you, and sometimes it may not the same as what you expect.

Expectations are obstacles to enjoying what is.

Some of us think that having no expectations in life will make our life dull. But the contrary is true.

Expectations are projections into the future. They are created because we can’t accept the present moment. So we rather hide in an ideal, future moment that is not real. Expectations cannot make you happy because you are not enjoying what is. You are striving for something that hasn’t come true yet.

Even when you have met your expectations, two things are likely to happen:

  • You have more expectations for the future, so you never really take the time to celebrate and enjoy the moment, or
  • Meeting your expectations didn’t give you the satisfaction and happiness which you expected to receive.

The joy you get from meeting your expectations is fleeting. But you end up wasting a lot of your time waiting or worrying in the process of meeting your expectations. And risk being disappointed.

If you don’t wish to be disappointed, have no expectations. Take life as it is.

Here’s how to live a life without expectations.

1. Become aware of expectations.

Most of us don’t recognize our expectations because expectations are subtle and come in many forms. They disguise themselves as goals, visions, beliefs, assumptions, and social norms. Every time, you think someone should do something or something should happen, that is an expectation.

The word “should” brings forth expectations.

Start noticing how you use the word “should” for all the small, little things in life. Don’t let these expectations run your daily life.

  • He should be on time.
  • My children should have cleaned up their room after they played with their toys.
  • He should have thanked me for my help.
  • My husband should have helped me out with the housework. He could at least take out the trash.
  • My neighbor should have kept their volume down at night.

2. Stop wanting to be right.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be on time, or your husband shouldn’t help you out with your housework. But when you believe these are the right things to do and people should do it, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Our expectations make us feel misery because we believe we are right. 

Your husband doesn’t have to take out the trash. When both of you get married, he probably didn’t sign an agreement to take out the trash. And you probably didn’t sign an agreement to do the housework either. So you don’t have to do the housework too if you don’t want to. There’s actually no right or wrong.

But if you are doing the housework and you need help, simply ask for help. Have no expectations in a relationship. Don’t determine who’s right or who’s wrong. Don’t blame one another. Just communicate.

In most cases, you are disappointed not because your husband didn’t take out the trash. You are disappointed because you expect him to do so without you asking. Because you think it’s the right thing for a caring husband to do.

If you don’t have to be right, most of your expectations, disappointment, and argument would have been gone.

3. Have no expectations of others.

Recently, someone called me an idiot in the comment section of my blog. He said I’m lazy and lack focus. If it were the old me, I would have felt very hurt by these comments. But now, I’m more peaceful about it because I have no expectations of others.

Don’t expect people to be nice to you. Instead, be nice to yourself!

It may seem very depressing to have no expectations of others. But I realized you absolutely have no control over one’s action. So why let other people’s actions affect you?

Of course, it would be nice to have good comments from readers all the time. But when you start something like a blog or put your message out there, you know that some people would agree with you, and some people won’t. Don’t expect strangers to act in a way you want them to. Not everyone shares the same experience as you and see the perceptions you see.

You can only control how you treat others and how you treat yourself. So be nice to yourself when people are unkind. Forgive them.

And don’t even expect your friends or family to do what they promise.

This has nothing to do with trust. People just don’t do what they promise every single time. I’m sure you experience it for yourself. You say you want to wake up early to exercise and you didn’t. You say you wanted to buy something from the supermarket, but you forget.

There are various reasons why people don’t do what they promise:

  • People agree to things they think they can do, but later they find out they can’t.
  • Something happens in their life which distracted them.
  • People promise things because they are afraid to say no.
  • They forget about it unintentionally.
  • They really have no intention of doing what they promise.
  • Or they change their mind later.

Whatever the case is, don’t take other people’s words seriously. Don’t even take your own words seriously! Because words are just words. Until actions are taken, words are pretty meaningless.

4. Don’t compare yourself with others.

When you compare yourself with others, you expect more from yourself. Someone has a car, so you must have a car too. If someone has a goal to retire by the age of 50, then you also want to retire by the age of 50.

“If someone else can do it, so can I.” This is very empowering, but at the same, it creates unnecessary self-expectations. You expect yourself to be able to do what everyone else can. You expect yourself to be as good as everyone else.

But you are not everyone else. You have your unique strengths.

Everyone is blessed with different strengths and weaknesses. What takes people 1 day to do may take you 1 month to do. As a tuition teacher, I know students can obtain better grades for their exams if they put in the effort. But in the long run, I know it’s wiser for students to focus on their strengths, instead of their weaknesses.

Just because you can do what someone else is doing, doesn’t mean you have to what they are doing. Rather than fixing your weaknesses, why not spend the time on something you are naturally good at?

And do you really want what other people want in life? Not everyone wants to climb a corporate ladder. Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur or an artist. Some people prefer to live in a penthouse with a beautiful city view, while others prefer to live in a small cottage in the peaceful countryside.

It’s pointless to compare apples with oranges. So don’t compare yourself with others and you will have less high expectations for yourself.

5. Focus on process goals instead of outcome goals.

“Set goals but know that the arriving is not all that important.” from Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle.

There are two types of goals. One which focuses on the outcome and the other focuses on the process.

If you are a writer, outcome goals would be to finish your book or your blog post by a certain date. At that date, you want to see the book or your blog post complete. It’s fine having outcome goals, but people tend to attach expectations to their outcome goals.

Process goals, on the other hand, would be like writing daily for at least an hour. They are more like habits which you develop over time. Process goals are less stressful because they aren’t based on your progress or your abilities. It’s based on your commitment. You set aside time for writing and you write. It doesn’t matter how fast you write or how much you write. As long as you schedule a time for writing and you follow through, you reach your goals.

Having no expectations doesn’t mean you have no standards.

Some of us confuse expectations with standards. You don’t expect everyone to treat you well. But that doesn’t mean you allow others to treat you badly. You may not have any control over the outcome of your work. You don’t expect hard work would guarantee success. But you can still show up daily and do your work because it’s part of your standard.

Process goals are about standards and boundaries. When you let go of the outcome and put more of your attention on your action, you would expect less from yourself.

6. Be open to changes and possibilities.

Never be fixated on the outcome, your plan, your goals and etc. Anytime you are fixated on something or someone, expectations are bound to be there. Because you limit yourself when you can’t live without something or someone.

Plans often fail.

It’s not about having the perfect plan. It’s about reflecting and changing your actions along the way. Entrepreneurs don’t become successful because they have the perfect plan right at the start. They put their ideas out there. If it doesn’t work, they understand why and make changes to their ideas and then execute their ideas again. It’s an iterative process.

A plan is supposed to be a plan. It’s not the real thing. When new information comes in, you are allowed to change your direction.

And a plan is made in the past. Stay in the present. If something needs change right now, change it. Be open to the possibilities. Don’t lock yourself with some expectations you formed in the past.

7. Allow others to manage their expectations of you.

You may have no expectations for other people or situations. But other people may have expectations of you.

  • Parents expect you to be a doctor, lawyer, or accountant.
  • Your partner expects you to spend time together.
  • Your children expect you to be there for all their soccer matches or dance rehearsals.
  • Society expects you to go to college, get married, and have kids.
  • Your peers expect you to be at their level in terms of wealth, status, and relationship.

Most of us may have gotten our expectations from someone else. We are pressured to do something because someone else wants us to do it. But most of the time, we do have a choice.

Don’t let other people’s expectations of you becomes your expectations.

You can’t help someone manage their expectations. If your parents aren’t happy with what you do in life, then it’s their expectations which are making them unhappy. It’s not your fault. You aren’t the one who disappoints them. They are trying to control something which they have no control over. It’s their expectations which cause their disappointment.

Allow them to manage their own expectations of you. It’s for them to see how their expectations are affecting their life. Meeting their expectations won’t make them happy. They would only have more expectations of you. And it definitely won’t make you happy, so why do it?

Start by lowering your expectations.

It’s challenging to live a life without expectations. We are so used to having expectations for everything. And we felt bad and guilty when we don’t meet other people’s expectations.

If you can’t live without expectations, start by being aware of them, and lower your expectations. You’ll find yourself living a more happy and fulfilling life.

Featured Photo Credit: Sad girl… / Mykhailo Dorokhov