Whenever you are counting on something to happen in a certain way and it doesn’t you are left with a feeling of disappointment or frustration. This is what we call Expectations.

There is a big difference between ‘hoping’ for something and ‘expecting’ something to happen.

Whenever I think that “I must get an A at all my exams or else I’m a failure”, then I’m setting myself up for a potential disappointment. Or whenever I think “I can change him or her”, or “I need to be shown love through regular gifts or flowers” and the list is endless, I am putting together the right ingredients for a potential deception.

Not that wanting to be showered with love, or being offered flowers, or living by certain agreed standards, striking a great deal or having all your dreams come true is something faulty or bad. Nor am I suggesting not to have dreams!  But what I am saying is that it is the way we want in certain circumstances that are out of our control that makes the difference between experiencing countless disappointments and frustrations, or simply being flexible and open.

Expectation is rigid, but can be useful if I happen to be running a five star hotel, however it can also be counter-productive if I happen to be clinging onto some personal irrational or unreal belief.  It is expectation like the latter, those that are not concerned with some pre-agreed or clearly communicated establishment, that will cause unnecessary stress and will also often be found in people experiencing panic attacks or other forms of anxietiesdepression, or other mental health or relationship issue. Those type of expectations will often be tied together with a series of common thinking errors. By that I mean: cognitive distortions. Those are types of thoughts that will lead us to have a negative experience of a situation that ultimately is out of our hands. An example might be “if I get the job I am a success but if I don’t then I’m a failure”. This is also known as ‘all or nothing’ type thinking. It is when I hold an extreme view of a situation, another person or of myself without clear evidence or a real predictable outcome. 

There is a whole list of various thinking errors such as catastrophizing, taking things personally even when it is not personal, assuming others are thinking something about you without any evidence, jumping to conclusions before knowing the fact, having a narrow view of yourself or others, disqualifying the positives in your life or holding fixed false beliefs despite overwhelming evidence of the contrary are just a few examples of common cognitive distortions.

The good news is that they are all changeable with the right guidance.

Learning how to identify your thinking errors and then gradually reframing them in a way that you become more flexible, will mean that your anxieties will decrease, your mood will improve and your overall sense of wellbeing will increase because you have allowed yourself to adjust your expectations to various life situations. For instance, is it possible to arrive late because of an unusual traffic jam in a street where there never is traffic? Is it possible that you get a different position in a company than the one you thought you were going to get? Is it possible that you end up winning the lottery? Each of these scenarios are possible because they are out of our control, just like the weather is out of our control.

Hope on the other hand is by its very nature flexible. Whilst expectation is the assumption that something is going to happen whether it is true or not in some situations, hope on the contrary is the wish for something to happen but that might not. “I wish to meet the woman of my dreams” or “I hope that it will be sunny tomorrow” or “I hope that we will communicate better together” etc. Unlike expectation, hope accepts the reality of uncertainties. It will not die if it goes unmet. As the saying goes: a hope deferred does not kill the soul. We may have to adjust our hopes, but we can always keep hoping. Whilst expectations, unless we are referring to specific mutually agreed standards of living, will slowly or quickly poison our life depending on whether or not our personal needs are met.

Do you consider yourself to live with hopes or to live with unrealistic expectations?

Don’t hesitate to leave your comments below…