E_Expectations (Part of the Be Happy Series)

Im not sure what your expectations are. 

That’s OK, 

it’s my own fault - I never asked you what your expectations were. 

Then again… 

Is it really my fault? Should I have asked you? Or was I really just busy with my own life, my kids, my job, the extra course I’m studying after hours, keeping my partner happy…  

Just like you? 

This is the forever chicken-and-egg loop that we as humans so often find ourselves trapped in. Unmet expectations play a major part in our day-to-day (un)happiness. And, as that is what we are focusing on this week, let me get right down to the second part of our goal – 

to B.E_H.A.P.P.Y. 

Emotional consul expressing his opinion loudly

E – Express your Expectations 

Have you ever heard the expression, “Assumption is the mother of all mistakes”?  

Well, it’s not always phrased so cleanly, and that is exactly why it is so very accurate and applicable to just about every situation in life – from your job, relationship / marriage, even (especially!) when it comes to parenting. 

Today I will introduce you to a most life-changing concept - The Power Elevator. 

Just as if you are standing in an elevator (“lift”) you have a choice whether you’re going to push the buttons that take you up, or the ones that take you down. In this analogy, imagine that the “ground floor” is the neutral position from which we start and from which position any relationship or communication exchange begins. Level 0. 

In order to feel happy, ideally we want to be in a neutral state, or an elevated state of power. We do not want to go down in the elevator, because down in the basement the sun doesn’t shine and it is very hard to feel happy in the dark.  

So what happens in our Power Elevator every day then? Why do we so often find ourselves in the dark pits of despair? Where is the “up” button? 

The simplest way to explain “up”, is by helping you see how you’re currently going “down”. 

The first floor down below Level 0, is called Expectations. Level -1. 

As soon as we have engaged with another human being, more often than not the result is that either, or both parties, leave the discussion with some sort of expectation. A meeting time, a task to be completed at a certain time, a favour to be done, whatever it is. Should this expectation not be met, the party(s) sitting on Level -1, “Expectations”, goes down another floor to Level -2, which is the level of Frustration / Complaining. 

Making sense so far? Pretty logical, right?  

We engage with someone -> an expectation is created -> Expectation not met -> we get frustrated.  

And what do we most often do when we are feeling frustrated? That’s right, we complain! 

We complain to anyone and everyone who would listen… but very rarely to the person who didn’t meet our expectation.  

We might complain to our colleague: “The service provider said they would phone me with an answer today. It’s almost time to go home and I still haven’t heard from him.” 

Or, to our best friend: “My partner promised they would be available next weekend to go and visit my parents and now they say they have to work. Not cool!” 

Or, to anyone who would listen! “My kids said that they would wash the dishes after dinner, yet last night I had to do it all on my own – AGAIN.” 

And this is the point at which we find ourselves on Level -2. 

Does this sound familiar? If so, then you now already have a much clearer understanding of why you so often find yourself in that dark place, my friend. 

But it’s not too late to turn around. I’ll tell you how, keep reading. 

So now you know:  

Level 0 – Neutral 

Level -1 – Sitting in expectation 

Level -2 – Frustration / complaining. 

Now what is the next thing that happens, after we have already reached the level of Frustration / complaining, if our expectations still remain unmet? 

Yup, you guessed it: We get ANGRY!  

Clear and simple. Unaddressed frustrations lead to anger (Level -3) and what happens oh so often when we get mad enough? 

That’s right – We give up. Level -4. Boom. Crash. Deep dark hole of despair. We walk out of the job we used to love. We walk away from the friendship. We end the relationship. We drop out of college / school. In some cases, we give up on our parent… or even our child. We walk away from our dreams. 

I pray that you are not there yet and I want to show you how to go UP that elevator, from whichever level you are currently sitting at. 

The first level up, from “Level 0”, is called “Wish”. Mind you, even if you are sitting at a level of Anger or Frustration, you can still go up a level by expressing your Wish. “I wish you had told me sooner that you were working this weekend, so that I could have planned better.” “I wish you would throw your dirty clothes INSIDE the basket, instead of just putting it on top of the basket.” “I wish you would try a bit harder to be punctual.” 

Bear in mind, that if you decide to employ “Level +1” and express a Wish, you need to be OK with getting “no” for an answer. Expressing a wish, is simply that – communicating a desire. And you need to choose your words carefully if “no” is not an option for you. 

If you are not OK with “no” for an answer, you need to express your desire more firmly. This is Level +2 – Request. 

For example: “Please put your clothes INSIDE the basket, it is not acceptable to me that you just put them on top.” 

Should your expectations remain unmet, or you have an expectation that you are absolutely not willing to compromise on, then you need to move to the highest level up your Elevator of Power – Level +3 – Demand. 

For example: “When we meet new people, please introduce me. I feel uncomfortable if you just start talking and act I am not there. It makes me feel unimportant. I will not escort you in future if you don’t commit to introducing me.” “This is a very busy road. I understand that you are 13 years old, but you will hold my hand while we cross this street.” “Morning Meeting starts at 08:30am sharp. Everyone is to be on time. Latecomers will face consequences.” 

Can you see that you can make a demand, without actually saying “I demand”? You just need to be really firm (yet courteous, no need to be aggressive) and make clear that you INSIST on certain needs being met. 

I hope that you had a bit of an “ah-ha” reading this and that you can communicate your desires more effectively from today onwards. Expressing your expectations, gives people the opportunity to meet your expectations, and puts you back in the driver seat – back in control of your happiness. Now, if people still don’t meet your expectations, it really is their fault and you can decide how to handle it. 

Let me know your experience after employing this handy tool, I would love to hear from you. 

Hakuna Matata 

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