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WARNING: Expectations ahead!

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

Have you ever gone hiking? 

In June, I took a short trip to Black Rock, a local state park where I spent an hour on a moderately difficult hiking trail. The hike was a steep climb up, on rocky and branch filled terrains, with choices of difficulty levels and different available paths. I will admit that at one point, there was a path that was taken by accident, which led to nowhere, and required a route recalculation! At the top of the climb there was a breathtaking mountain view followed by a steep climb down (steeper than I expected!).

Hiking is very much a reflection of life. It is a journey. It is complex. You may be aiming for one path and land on another. You may confront unexpected stumbling blocks. You may have planned for the beginner route and landed on the advanced route.

“Help! This is not what I expected!”

When expectations are unmet, frustration or disappointment are likely to follow. In session, it is not uncommon (particularly in relationships), for people to share about unmet expectations. It truly is challenging to find oneself in a position that is unexpected, whether it is in regards to relationships, occupation, personal growth, or any other goal. 

Shani* shared about her relationship with Tzvi. “I always expected my husband to buy me beautiful gifts, like my dad bought my mom. But Tzvi isn’t big on lavish gifts, even on my birthday.” Shani’s reactions included feeling distressed, down, and uncared for. Tzvi was surprised by Shani’s strong feelings in reaction to something that he considered to be trivial and unimportant. Tzvi said, “Whenever special occasions come around, I try to do something fun with her to celebrate but she just seems disappointed.

Shani and Tzvi need to learn how to communicate to each other in a way that expresses not only their feelings in regards to a certain matter, but also, the story that is playing out for them behind the scenes. For example, Shani can express her perception behind the expectation of receiving gifts to Tzvi by saying, “Gifts are meaningful to me, because gifts are a tangible representation of your love.” 

It is possible that when Shani explores her reaction, she may come to a different realization. “Growing up I saw my dad buying gifts for my mom, so I have this expectation that my spouse should be buying me gifts. Actually, though, I much prefer when Tzvi demonstrates caring by spending time with me rather than expensive purchases.

Expectations can arise out of peer pressure, out of genuine feelings or desires, and also out of habit or routine. 

Exploring the feeling and drive behind the expectation is important because it can lead to more thorough and effective communication. Knowing why you expect what you do can help you evaluate whether your expectations are healthy and realistic. If they aren’t, that is a further springboard for personal growth!

As with hiking, one sets off on a certain path filled with expectations. The terrain may change, forcing re-evaluation. If it is the right path, forge ahead!- albeit with modifications as needed. One may come to the conclusion that this isn’t the right path after all and seek one that is more conducive to their skill and ability.

Ultimately, when freeing oneself of expectations, it is easier to find peace along the journey and enjoy the present.

*All names and situations have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

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