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Most of our expectations are connected to our beliefs, which is why giving up expectations doesn’t come naturally to us.
There’s no doubt that we all have expectations. We all believe certain things should happen in a certain way and some of our expectations are stronger than others.
In a way, our expectations create our lifestyle and, if you struggle to give up expectations or you simply feel like you can’t properly function in today’s world, then this article is for you.
I’ve been there.
I’ve been to a point where I used to believe that things should happen in a certain way and people should behave according to whatever was happening in my mind.
As a result, I ended up hating everyone for more than 3 years. I even hated myself for a short period.
Having expectations is a nasty thing and every therapist will encourage you to at least lower your expectations. In my case, when I was first told to lower my expectations, I felt something strong inside of me holding me back. It was like a bunch of hands were grabbing my stomach and spine and holding me down.
But things have changed. I let go of all my obvious expectations and I’m currently working on my subtle expectations.
What are obvious and subtle expectations?
Imagine you are the kind of person who loves starting things out without planning or thinking too much.
As soon as you have a certain task or project, you don’t need more than 15 minutes to start working towards it. All you need is a pen and paper so you can put down the first steps and then start moving.
For you, that’s normality.
But when you join a team, you discover that not everyone else is like you. And even though you know everyone else is not like you, you expect them to move as fast as you do.
That’s an obvious expectation.
But there will be people who like to plan more than act and will spend two weeks planning and making sure they have the perfect start. In these two weeks, you’ll probably have more things done than everyone else, but that’s not how everyone else is.
Let’s stay in the same hypothetical situation and imagine that three months have passed, you are still part of a team, and you still tend to do more than everyone else because that’s your nature. Since three months have passed, you believe that people around you noticed that you like to get things moving and therefore expect them to move a bit faster too. But nothing has changed and it’s frustrating you.
That’s a subtle expectation.
You expect that, because 3 months passed, everyone else will notice you move faster and they will join your pace. But, at the same time, everyone else may have the same mindset you have.
Here are some examples of how people think. Maybe you resonate with one of the examples:
- “Look at Andrew… he’s moving too fast! He wants to have everything ready for the client today. Where is he rushing?”
- “Look at Jane and her drawings. Why can’t she just make a simple bullet list so we can focus on other important things faster?”
- “I’ve been part of this team for a year now and nobody figured out I don’t like waiting two weeks for our first brainstorming? It should happen the second day after we get the project!”
And here’s the problem (which you have probably guessed): people don’t communicate their expectations.
The stronger the expectations you have and the more time passes without expressing them, the more frustrated you’ll become.
Your strongest expectations are connected to your strongest beliefs
In the 3-year period I hated everyone, I also punished everyone.
It was impossible for me to accept that people couldn’t act according to my expectations. And I wasn’t having some weird requests, at least I didn’t believe so.
Here are some of the expectations I had:
- I used to believe that someone who is a friend and needs help will pick up the phone and not wait for me to call just so I can learn that they have been struggling for the past three months with something I could have helped and made their life easier.
- I used to believe that saying “Thank you” and “Please” is something that everyone should have in their vocabulary and you should use these phrases in your daily conversations.
- I used to believe that people who make lots of money are also smart and care about people; at least about their employees, treat them nicely, and show appreciation.
- I used to believe that people see the value of discovering your passions and living a passionate life.
I could keep giving examples and do it for hours.
I used to believe that simply because I do things in a certain way, people would do the same. After all, if I’m nice and want to live in a better world, I expect that world to have people who are as nice as I am.
It seems people are not like that. But that wasn’t the problem.
The problem was that I couldn’t accept that some people are not nice. Some people enjoy manipulating and playing games. Other people enjoy living a carefree life. And there are people who only care about making money.
All this is fine.
But because I was too absorbed by the idea that people should behave in a certain way, I got to a place where I hated everyone for not behaving that way.
Don’t be like me, or at least don’t be like the way I was.
If you find yourself in what I just shared with you, then you’ll enjoy the next part.
Letting go of your expectations without harming your beliefs
If you think about the expectations I shared with you previously, I kept saying that I used to believe people should do something in a certain way.
I didn’t say that I used to expect people to act in a certain way, but that I used to believe.
Right now, I got to a point where I don’t believe people should do something.
For example, I don’t believe that people should say “Thank you” and “Please”. But I believe that I should say it.
In other words, I kept the belief only to myself.
To do that, I realized that in this process of having expectations, there are not only my beliefs involved, but also my desires.
When I believe people should be nice and say “Thank you”, I also have the desire to see everyone act nice. That desire is hiding behind the belief and expectation and not too many people are paying attention to it.
Therefore, don’t give up your desires. Instead, lower the intensity of your expectations while maintaining the desires you have.
Wanting people to be nice is a great desire. But find a way to separate it from the expectation that people will be nice.
To do that, simply focusing on your desires and becoming aware that they’re different from your expectations shall be enough. For me it was and I didn’t have to do anything more than that.
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Alright, what I shared with you until now is why I believe your expectations are holding you back and how to give up your expectations.
From now on, I’ll go through some of the things I shared and give you some extra insights.
Let’s start with how I usually communicate my expectations
To do that, I’ll share with you a part of my coaching process.
Whenever someone approaches me and tells me they want coaching, I make it clear to them a few things, such as:
- They are responsible for whatever change they want to create in their lives and I expect them to take responsibility for that
- They should be engaged in the process and allocate time in between the sessions as well, to make sure they get the most out of the coaching process
- They should be open, transparent, and share with me whatever they believe is important for me to know so I can better assist them
These are a few things I expect from anyone I work with.
But simply saying what I expect is the easy part.
Things get a bit challenging if, even if I share my expectations, the coachee says that they agree with them but they do something at the opposite pole.
For example, it happened a few times that the coachee didn’t allocate time in between sessions. In such a case, I communicate again my expectations and why is it in the coachee’s interest to allocate time in between sessions. If it keeps happening, to make sure they have the time, we add more time in between sessions and instead of having 4 sessions per month, we move to two sessions per month.
And there’s another situation that can happen when it becomes impossible to communicate my expectations.
I remember that once I was part of a team as a digital strategist and I had shared responsibilities with a colleague. This colleague of mine didn’t complete their tasks, we went over the deadline and it made me so frustrated that I couldn’t communicate anything anymore.
If you ever get to intense emotional moments, not only you shouldn’t communicate your expectations, but you shouldn’t say anything. At least that’s what I do.
I wait for the intense emotions to go away, which is not easy at all, then I share again the expectations I had and I also tell the other person what they did and how it made me feel.
In most cases, people understand and are open to collaborating to improve the situation.
If they don’t care, I just stop whatever I’m doing and set a new boundary.
Let’s move on. Why is it important to understand the connection between expectations, beliefs, and desires in personal growth?
I believe we all have desires. If you’re an optimist, like me, then you have all kinds of positive desires about yourself, your loved ones, the communities you’re part of, and so on.
And because our desires are so strong, we tend to also expect others to act according to our desires. These expectations are the most dangerous because it’s connected to something that feels natural to us.
And understanding that is key. When you get to realize that what you believe and desire is only the way you see things, you’ll be able to create a separation between your desires and expectations.
I know it’s hard. It’s hard to let go of something you believe should happen.
But keep trying. On the other side of it is a life full of positive energy and great experiences.
Another important thing that I’d like to share with you is about the transformation itself.
As soon as I gave up my expectations, I started feeling amazing. I currently have lots of energy and I feel better than I ever felt.
While I’ve struggled a lot at the beginning with letting go, what I feel really helped me are the guided meditation sessions from Joe Dispenza. I shared some information about them in the first and second episodes of the podcast, so if you’re interested, play those episodes as well.
After hating so many people for so many years, it feels unreal to get to a point where that hatred doesn’t make sense anymore.
There are days when I ask myself why I had so much negative energy in my life and why did I have it for so long.
The answer is expectations.
I’m so happy I got to move past my expectations because now I get to live my life fully.
And finally, I’d like to address authenticity.
For me, being authentic means a lot – it is one of my strongest values. Also, in the years that I hated everyone, it felt like I was losing my authenticity.
When I look at being authentic, I see the idea of not having to prove anything, being honest in the conversations one has with people, and embracing self-acceptance.
When you expect people to do something in a specific way, it can easily be understood that you want these people to live a part of your life for you. Expecting things from others is a way of asking them something you don’t have in your life.
It took me a while to understand it but the expectations we have from others can kill the authenticity you have.
Let others do their thing and expect nothing from them. Focus on yourself and become an example of how you’d like others to be.
With love and optimism,
What did you learn?
What are some valuable things you learned about giving up expectations?
I would love to know what you think, so share your insights with me using the form below.