A few months ago a very good friend of mine said to me, “the majority of your frustrations are due to your unrealistic expectations.” I didn’t know how to feel about her statement. There I sat venting to her about the frustrations of my life, waiting for her to co-sign on my misery, and that’s what she gave me. I have to admit that it stung a little, but I slowly began to realize it was the truth.
My parents taught me to follow the Golden Rule – to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. This is something that followed me into my adult life. The funny thing is that I missed a very important piece. The rule is do unto others AS you would have them to do unto you. The reality is that you don’t always get what you give.
My life has been filled with random frustrations because of my own unrealistic expectations. I used to feel that if I did something for someone or put their feelings first, they should do the same for me. I found myself sadly disappointed when this did not occur.
All of this made me check my true motives for doing things. It made me questions whether I genuinely do things because I want to or if I do things to get something in return. The answer was simple. I do things out of the kindness of my heart, with no motives… but I do expect to receive the same kindness in return.
So how do we change our unrealistic expectations? I have decided to expect nothing at all. Sounds crazy, and it’s a form of radical acceptance, but I think it just might work. I have decided to put good energy out, to help people, to be a good listener, and to put others before me because that’s who I am. But just because it’s who I am, doesn’t mean it’s who everyone else is. I have accepted that if I do good deeds, I will receive good things in return because this is one of my core beliefs. I have also accepted that the things I receive in return may not be in the form I’d expect.
Spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy once wrote, “peace begins when expectations end.” This is one of my new mantras. If you have really high expectations of others and find yourself frustrated when those expectations are not met, let go of your unrealistic expectations. What have you got to lose other than a bit of frustration?
Surprised woman photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 7 Oct 2012