We’re in the midst of graduation season, with scores of high school and college students embarking on various goals for their future. On this blog, I’ve often discussed how we set our goals and manage them as they come to fruition, change, or even thistle out over time. As challenging as it can be to manage our expectations for ourselves, it’s even a more daunting task to control our expectations of others.
No matter how well you know somebody, you can’t map out their course for them. From an outsider’s perspective, you may be convinced someone would excel in this or that, but he/she may have reasons for not pursuing such a venture. A lot of aspirations were thrown at me by well-meaning friends when I graduated, one being that I should become a social worker. Granted, the friend offered sound logic behind it, remarking that my history gave me insight into helping people. In reality, however, my experiences shied me away from the field, as I selfishly didn’t want to relive those battles every day. I’d prefer to help others in a different way.
Life pursuits aren’t the only area where expectations can be tricky. Many times, others don’t meet our expectations in the way they act. From a young age, we learn about cause and effect, a so-called fact of life. You plant a seed, water it, and it grows into a plant, right? When it comes to free-willed humans, though, the effect of whatever cause we might initiate isn’t always what we predicted. We might offer somebody a smile and expect them to reciprocate, but they scowl, instead. How should we react to such disappointments?
For starters, we need to acknowledge our own flaws. A habit we all get into is holding others to a higher standard than we do ourselves. We fool ourselves into believing we handle things the right way at least most of the time, but do we? Under certain circumstances, don’t we dish out treatment contrary to what someone deserves? Beyond that, even what we deem the proper behavior may not match up with what others consider appropriate. We might be on our best behavior, but it rubs them the wrong way. Just because somebody acts differently than we do, we can’t judge it as wrong.
We should also appreciate the fact that expectations can be surpassed, and we have to be open to that prospect. We might expect someone to fill one spot in our life, but they eventually ended up filling another. I encountered that with a dear friend, who initially didn’t meet my expectations and actually annoyed me at one point. Before long, however, we developed a very special bond. If you aren’t careful, you’ll miss out on such an opportunity by sticking to your rigid expectations and not allowing somebody the wiggle room to enrich your world in another way.
We can’t rid ourselves of all expectations because they contribute a lot to everyday life. Some have to be met for our benefit, and the ones we put on ourselves govern everything we do. With regard others, however, we have to strive for a balance. We have to put away our measuring stick, realizing it’s likely inaccurate. Instead, we ought to keep our minds open to people’s differences.