Today, I visited my old high school to attend a parent-teacher meeting with my niece, who is also studying there. I attended and met teachers; they were all fascinated to see me as some of them still remember me as their naughtiest kid. They shared their observations and reviews about my niece’s academic performance, and during that conversation, one teacher told me, ‘She is quite a remarkable student, but, she does not participate actively in some activities. I am now expecting more from her.’ As a teacher, when you heard such observations, you start doing the depth analyses, and therefore, many things come in my mind during this conversation. Different children have different abilities and different level of understanding, multiple intelligences, and the list of such theories goes on in my mind. However, the thing that puzzled me more than anything when she said ‘I expect…’. I heard many parents giving valuable advice to their kids and reminding them how they should fulfil their parent’s expectations. The very first question that exploded in my mind was, why do we even expect from others to act like us or think like us?
When we expect, we basically start assuming the future; it is as if we were betting that something will happen. We know that in gambling, there is always a chance that whatever we desire will not going to happen. Hence, we disappoint ourselves believing falsely on certain assumptions which we gambled on. Similarly, merely expecting something to happen will not make it happen. Psychologist Jean Piaget highlights that young children have difficulty distinguishing between the subjective worlds in their heads and the outer, objective world. Therefore, children sometimes believe that their thoughts can directly cause things to happen; for example, thinking angry thoughts about your little brother can cause him to fall down the stairs. Piaget referred to this behaviour as magical thinking and believe that we all have been through that phase once in our lifetime. The only thing that makes Piaget’s theory of magical thinking wrong is that even adults continue to engage in various sorts of magical thinking in their lives. For many of us, it is difficult to let go of the idea that expecting something to happen will make it happen.
There are two types of expectations which we lived and believe during our life span; realistic and unrealistic. A realistic expectation is the ones which are understandable for example, parents who expect that their children will respect their feelings and advice or couples who are expecting that both of them will agree and understand each other’s feelings. These expectations are, in a sense, the pillars upon which are based the healthy and positive relationships.
Unrealistic expectations are the ones which are way too high or even don’t have any basis. For example, those parents in the PTM who were expecting that their kids will perform as they performed in their school life. Obviously, the time, space and trends of education are now different; one cannot impose an idea which has nothing to do with the present day and time. Minimising such unrealistic expectation from our loved ones, friends and colleagues will provide space to do and thinks differently and surprise the world with their own creativity. Moreover, in the long run, it also allows people to be happier and avoid constant disappointments and frustrations.
How to Avoid Unrealistic Expectations?
Rather than expect too much from the others, it would be wiser to expect more from ourselves. Following are some of the pointers that might help us to avoid false expectations from others.
- Accept that no one is perfect, not even you. It is not necessary to assume the role of a judge; no one is perfect and has the absolute truth. We accept that we are all people trying to do things as best as we can, and mistakes are part of the learning.
- Respect individuality. Reducing expectations also means respecting other’s identity by giving them the freedom to act according to their values and desires. People should not behave as you do, and neither follow your rules. What is right for you, it must not be necessarily valid for the others.
- Often, we act as creditors; we think that because we made them some favours, the others are in debt with us. However, if we want to behave well, it’s better we do it because we like to do it and not because we expect to receive something in return.
- Sometimes, having expectations of others means holding them responsible for our happiness. We condition our happiness to their behaviour, so we become dependent on their reactions. It is important to realise that we alone are responsible for our happiness, not others.
So, stop expecting from others, either from your kids or from your friend, to fulfil your dreams, let them do their own struggle and start expecting from yourself. Only you have the power to fulfil your dreams 😊