Imagine you are in a rush to get to this convention about innovation and you are in a rush because you’re excited. You’re excited about all the topics that are going to be discussed and this excitement is what creates all these expectations about the entire convention. You don’t really know how to manage your expectations, and you don’t really care – you just want to be there.
You’re excited especially about one speaker and their presentation in particular because you expect to get more knowledge that will eventually help you and your team innovate.
You are at the convention, time passes, the speaker arrives, and you realize that your team isn’t there.
Your team, who promised will be there, is late. The longer it takes, the more frustrated you get about your team. Eventually, the speech is over and your team is still not there. You feel like your team didn’t care and, because of all the negative emotions, you couldn’t really pay attention to the speaker and what they had to say.
When you realize it, you get even more frustrated. You’re mad at your team and you’re mad at yourself. The whole experience is a mess and you wish you could go back home, but you paid over $2000 for an early bird ticket for you and your team, and you don’t want to waste your money, even though it feels as if you already did.
Later that night, you start thinking about what happened and you think about your team and how they didn’t keep their promise.
You realize it’s not the first time and you start remembering all the previous times when they didn’t keep their promise. It makes you angry at yourself because you trusted your team once again, even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t do it again.
You try to go to sleep but the idea of having an untrustworthy team keeps you awake until 4 in the morning.
How you manage expectations starts with what you want…
Let’s take a look at the above situation and understand how you could have managed your expectations better.
To do that, we need to understand what you wanted.
Let’s make a list:
- You wanted to go to the convention
- You wanted to see the speaker and listen to their speech
- You wanted your team to come with you
You did the first one.
But because the third one didn’t happen, your focus changed and couldn’t pay attention to the speech anymore.
Your mind was too attached to the idea of your team missing from the convention, that you couldn’t do the things you set yourself to do. That’s how powerful your expectation was.
… and ends with others’ behavior
At the same time, when we look at the whole situation, we see that you knew that your team had moments in the past when they didn’t keep their word.
That’s a great cue that you didn’t take into consideration because you were too excited about the convention.
The way you manage your expectations is not about you, but about what you know about those around you.
When you know what others can provide you, you know what you can expect of them.
Here’s a different kind of example, a simpler one.
Let’s say you have a colleague who’s never giving you the kind of feedback you want.
Whenever you work on something together and you want their opinion, they always say the things you did good but you expect some criticism. Therefore, you find no value in what they say and you get more frustrated with their feedback. It’s not bad feedback, it simply doesn’t help you with what you want.
At the same time, this colleague of yours is always supportive and whenever they see you sad, they come to you and have a genuine interest in your situation. That’s a great colleague!
If things are happening like this, then you know their behavior:
- You know your colleague is giving you only positive feedback
- You know your colleague is supportive when you need emotional support from others
Use what you know about others to set yourself the right expectations
You shouldn’t expect your colleague to give you criticism when giving criticism is not part of their behavior. You simply shouldn’t.
Instead, try to ask for the feedback you need from a colleague who’s capable of providing the criticism you need.
At the same time, if your colleague is offering you great emotional support when you need it, think of them next time your life reaches a negative turning point.
It’s the healthy way of setting expectations and seeing things like this will help you amazingly when it comes to managing expectations.
“Act without expectation.” ― Lao Tzu
When it comes to Zen Masters, expectations are not part of the equation, therefore there’s no expectation to manage.
But we’re no Zen Masters. We are normal people, living normal lives, with normal relationships and normal problems. Expectations are part of our daily routine and, until we’ll be able to live a Zen life, it’s better to understand the life we’re currently living and make the best out of it.
With love and optimism,