Expectations: Pre-Meditated What?


Expectations are pre-meditated resentments.

I have come to learn that this is simply true. And although I’ve accepted this as true, it’s amazing how often I still fall prey to this old habit of creating and holding onto expectations. Part of my work with acceptance and gratitude has helped me improve how I look at and deal with life, and another big piece of “project self-betterment” is trying to eliminate those damned expectations.

It was an interesting practice coming to understand this concept and it’s been much more interesting learning how to identify it for myself, and avoid it. I was talking about this with a friend via instant message, and she questioned whether expectations are really all that bad. Her argument—and I hope she’ll correct me here if I’m wrong—was basically that expectations help us frame what’s to come and hold others (and ourselves) to a higher standard. In a lot of ways, this was my old view of expectations as well. But now I argue that whether or not we have expectations, we have no idea or control of what’s going to happen and/or what others are going to do. For instance: we may expect our friends to be there for us when we need them—and hopefully they are—but having that expectation doesn’t mean it will happen. And what happens when they’re not? Or what if they are there for us, but they don’t help us in the way we expected? For me this scenario often results in me being frustrated, angry, or (you guessed it) resentful; all things that eat away at me and make me a generally shitty person to be around.

Sometimes I turn this around, too. I often find myself not expecting good things to happen. I expect the worst and instead of hoping for the best, just hope that it won’t be as bad as I’ve played it out in my head. This is a “twofer” since I feel shitty as I’m expecting doom, and I feel shitty when the results aren’t better than what I expected. Yes, I’ve been relieved and happy when things end up way better than what I’ve expected, but I’m not sure the good times outweigh the bad. Either way, the negative outcome of having expectations can be avoided altogether, and I can still feel good when things result in my favor.

By no means am I batting a thousand, but when I’ve succeeded in eliminating expectations—big or small—I have been the most at peace with life, even in the face of not getting what I want. Letting go of expectations means that I can then focus more on acceptance and gratitude, and move closer to being content.