(Disclaimer: There would be millions of passages and texts written on this topic and I do not intend to repeat/quote anything. This is all from my own learning, good or bad. This is not a complete article and doesn’t fully examine each aspect of the topic. Please bear with multiple occurrences of the word ‘expectations’ and its derivatives. No other word fit better.)
Sometimes I wonder, why does it take a painful and sometimes even a long journey to understand something very basic and very out-there-in-your-face kind of a concept? Life’s lessons, as I would like to call them, have been preached by so many gurus, philosophies and religious scriptures for ages that using first hand experience to actually understand them is almost like re-inventing the wheel. But I think everyone has to go through that phase one time or the other in their own ways, in however manner their life tailors it to them, to actually understand and manifest life’s lessons. And learning two simple tenets that we are responsible for our own happiness and expectations that we have from others are the root cause for our pain – are among those concepts.
Our expectations from our loved ones arise almost from our subconscious mind. We don’t even realize that we are expecting something, let alone questioning its rationality. We feel (yes, we feel) that this is something that this person should have done in some certain way but hasn’t done it. We keep wondering about why he/she has not done it or has done it in that certain way which essentially was not how we had wanted. We totally forget to check our own premise first. We almost never ask ourselves if we really need the other person to do that something for us? Is this ‘demand’ justified? Is it impossible for me to live if he/she can’t do it for me? Can I do the same for him/her? Have I done it? Do I deserve it? Our subconscious mind totally skips this part. And that’s how we are trapped in the cobwebs of expectations and their fulfillment (or rather unfulfillment). We start feeling the pain and a sense of dissatisfaction starts gripping. Then we start questioning the worth of things around us, people around us, situations we are in. If not checked in early stages, this is a beautiful downward spiral to get on to reach an unsolvable mystery so entangled that you will need a lifetime or even more to figure it out. And all that while, still feeling that pain and dissatisfaction and asking yourself repeatedly that why am I not happy? Why can’t I feel it? What did I miss?
Can you think of an answer at this point, when you face those questions for umpteenth time? Can you reflect back here and see what went wrong and where? Amidst the haystack of reasons that you see,assuming that you can still see, can you spot the small needle named ‘expectations’ here? I am not saying expectations are the only cause of pain. I am saying they definitely are one of the causes. I don’t even need to explain how expectations are intertwined with happiness.
Now imagine you don’t expect anything. Then for one thing, you won’t get hurt that easily(You can guess why). And if he/she does something positive, you will be happy because that went above your “expectations” as you were at expectation=0. So if the other person fulfills even expectation=1, you will be happy because now expectation = 1>0. But if you have expectation=10, then even if the person delivers a 9.9 you wont be happy because it didn’t reach 10. It is still not that 10! That difference leads to a void! Accumulate these voids for long and that kicks in that downward spiral. In my view and definition, this holds true for the kind of people who believe in absolutes. For the “everything or nothing” variety. Its 0 or 10. I am not sure how the “something is better than nothing” kind of people will deal with it. But the EON people are not designed to recognize and appreciate the in-between numbers. To be able to do that they need to learn and practice and the other people need to have patience and teach them. But the chances of that are highly situational.
So don’t you think that a better way to be happy is freeing yourself from the burden of your own expectations? All of these do not contradict another basic principle of happiness- effective communication. You should and could convey to the other person that this is what you expect. But then, we need to remove that ‘tiny’ expectation that lurks beneath this one (very quietly that too) that this person will understand and fulfill it. Convey what you want but do not put a condition of it being fulfilled in order for you to be happy.
But this doesn’t mean you are adjusting. I am never a fan of adjustments and compromises. Adjustment is when you are in pain and still are bearing with it. Here you wont be in pain. You are still content and happy and progressing in your own way in every walk of your life. You haven’t stopped anything. Just that you are more relaxed because you are not waiting for your expectations to be fulfilled.
We cannot put our hopes and expectations on other people and wait for them to create perfect conditions for us to be happy. That almost never happens. If you are making the other person the driver of your happiness, then don’t assume that you will become the navigator. If its your car, you drive it. Else shut up and let the driver take you where he/she wants. Work out your own system here. Maybe you end up taking turns and being navigators for each other! Expectations work the best when what you want is what the other person wants to give and vice versa. Everyone needs to work hard to get to that stage where you figure out this balance.
I know one can’t be totally devoid of expectations and for healthy relationships, one should not be. But if you are waiting for something to happen and that something has to come from another person, then make sure that your wait is worth it. Help the other person in making this happen in every way you can. Don’t be a passive spectator waiting for the miracle to happen on its own. If you think its not worth a wait, then don’t stop for anything in this world. Don’t let anything stop you. Not even your own ‘silly’ expectation. Don’t let anything stop you from achieving what you want, from becoming what you want, from doing what you want, from getting the happiness that you want and deserve.
Be the rational selfish person and love yourself to be happy. You will safeguard yourself from all the negativity better when you love and respect yourself more.
Its not that difficult to be happy and it ain’t that easy either. Its just a matter of choice-the choice of seeing the positive or the negative, the choice of expecting or not expecting- which in turn is always in our hands. And that is exactly why we are architects of our own happiness.