In a lot of ways I feel like expectations are the root of all evil, well ok, that’s a little extreme. Expectations are, perhaps, the root of all disappointment.
When you go to a movie and don’t expect it to be good and it turns out to be pretty alright we love it way more than if we think it’s going to be great and it turns out only mediocre. In a lot of ways it is easier if we sequester our expectations to a back room, give them the once over, and tell them to hit the road. This lets us live in the moment, be surprised by little kindness, and, I think that it helps us be more appreciative of what we have. If we can remove expectations about how we think our lives should go, how our friends should act, and what things we need to own we would be a lot happier with what we have.
Think about New Years Eve, probably one of the most hyped, but worst executed holidays we have. This might be because there isn’t a clear goal – we have no idea if its living up to expectations; are we supposed to be in sparkly silver dresses on a roof top meeting the man of our dreams or just surrounded by loved ones at a quiet dinner? We don’t know, but what we do know is that our New Years Eve nights are never as good as ‘they’ say its supposed to be. But I’ll get back on track as I risk getting into a lengthy rant on social expectations and our insistence on complying with norms for no other reason than they exist.
So back to the start, if we expect less, we are happier with the surprises that come our way, whatever they may be. On the inverse, however, when we expect less, we are also less disappointed when things don’t go our way. Initially this all sounds very good. We are less upset by our, perhaps unrealistic expectations, which I think many of our expectations are. But I feel like this is such a defeatist way to look at life. ‘If I never expect anything from anyone, no one can let me down.’
I don’t want to live like that. For a number of reasons. I think we should be allowed to expect things from people and think we should be allowed to be disappointed when things don’t go our way. What we shouldn’t do is let those disappointments take over, let them turn us into pessimists, believing that people will always let us down or we never have enough.
I see two major issues with expecting nothing. First, I think it forces us to be apathetic and second it diminishes ‘negative’ emotions. I’ll only so into the first because I feel a whole blog coming on about our incessant need to be happy all the time. Fear, anger, and sadness are all emotions that I believe are just as valid as happiness, peace, and contentment. Telling people to not be sad only makes them feel like they are doing something wrong. But that’s for another day.
In our ‘zero fucks given’ lifestyle we are told to stop caring. To let it all roll off your back. But sometimes we need to get angry about things, sometimes we need to be hurt, because sometimes those things fuel change. Apathetic crowds don’t call for social change, or make companies stop taking advantage of far too young workers, or even stop bosses from taking advantage of their workers. People with passion, people who care do those things. And those people are cool. It is awesome when people wear their passions on their chest, they have a purpose, they keep going, doing what they want, because they are compelled to do so.
But now you’re saying to yourselves, didn’t she start off with ‘fewer expectations equals fewer disappointments’ and here she’s flip flopped her way right into ‘have some expectations, dammit!’? Well you’d be right. I’m of both camps, I think we can benefit from a little bit of both.
Too many and unrealistic expectations put a lot of pressure on you and the people around you to be perfect, and I think often reduces all the awesome things we have to never quite enough *cough* capitalism *cough*. We don’t want to be the guy who is never ever happy, the guy where something is always wrong; ‘sure my trip to space to see the earth like few people have ever experience it was great, but the food wasn’t that good.’ Don’t be that guy. But don’t also be the guy who will not get up and go for what s/he really wants. Having passion is a good look.