“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” – William Shakespeare
Expectations is a common terminology in our language and even more prevalent in our hearts in minds. Often times we don’t have the courage to speak out our expectations but hope and assume the people we relate with will get it. We are not mind readers please, cut us some slack. As annoying as it gets when our expectations are not met probably is how annoying it gets for another to realize you had an expectation on them, who not save each other the heartache?
Last Friday as part of our Ryculture Team meetings, our topic of discussion was “Expectations” and specifically; (i) Whether we should have expectations and (ii) How to deal with expectations on us. We had a noble discussion and then today in a phone conversation with a friend I mentioned that I was figuring out what to write about and the same topic came up so I decided to get to work. I will be as honest and open as I can on my take which captures what we had in our discussion (we are still debating whether to share them on a podcast; please help us break the deadlock by giving us your suggestion below) and my life experiences.
Should we have expectations? Yes and No. I believe at an individual level we need to have expectations on ourselves. In a way it is a way of setting standards for yourself anchored on your values, ideals and way of life. It means there is a way in which we operate, there are limits to what we can accept, tolerate and totally can’t accommodate. Having expectations on oneself also in some way gives you the push to pursue your dreams and aspirations. It keeps you on your toes as you don’t expect to fail yourself in the process.
When it comes to having expectations on others, it’s my belief that the world owes you nothing and you don’t owe it anything. On this account I recently saw a post that stated that “Procrastination is the arrogant assumption that God owes you another opportunity to do what you had time to do.” I tend to relate expectations we have on others to this. When you have an expectation on others to behave, act or fail to act in a particular way you are either acting or not acting in a way you would otherwise have in the hope that their choice will feed into your plan. The only thing you miss is that you don’t have control in whether they act or fail to in the way you expect them to. In life I have had a chance to interact with disappointed people and those who have had their expectations come true. In both cases they attributed it to luck, whether bad or good. Why would you leave your circumstances and life to luck like you can call on it to play out nicely?
When we have high expectations on others instead of only opening room for disappointment, we are giving these individuals power to control us. I remember in my high school days when people would brag of rich or connected uncles who would fix them to good jobs and all they needed was get a KCSE certificate. I am not here to preempt but often than not these always go south. It’s one key attribute I love about the teachings from my father. In third year of university, he sold one of his bulls and bought me a laptop. It was a treasured item considering I was partly lagging behind in my school work and personal projects that I hoped to work on. Unfortunately, in less that a year a more appropriate owner decided to take it from my room and I was back to square one. It wasn’t one of the best moments and as always one has to look for options. I talked to my father about the incident and on suggesting he buy me another laptop, he was stun and rightfully so in his response:
“Dave you remember I sold my biggest bull to buy you a laptop? I did what I could and you’ll have to find a way this time. Legitimately, my legally stipulated provision of care for you ended when you turned 18, anything I’m doing beyond this is out of goodwill and kindness.”
There it went and I realized that I had to either take responsibility or stay down. The latter wasn’t an option and I have tried over time not to expect much from people but instead act within my means, do my part and accept the outcomes.
How do you deal with expectations on you? I may not have an outright answer to this but most often as I earlier alluded people don’t explicitly express their expectations. This means they are constructs in your mind unless they tell you about them. On the other hand for those who tell you about their expectations, you either fulfill it or not and make it clear to them whether you will or won’t. The most conflicted expectation on us normally come from people we care about and would have wished to be there for on each and every circumstance. It’s okay to acknowledge that we have limits and we may never be able to meet all their expectations.
Another key anecdote from my dad was about a case we were discussing about people who expect you to sort them out financially i.e. loan them money. In his approach it’s as simple as it can be. When one asks of any help from you they definitely lack in that area and hope you are able to. If you are please help them. Otherwise make just let them know you don’t have the ability. Considering they didn’t have means you also are capable of not having. If they are broke, you also can be broke. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
“Expectations are just that. They may or may not be real. Both ways you are not in this world to live up to someone’s expectations of you and they also should not be obliged to live up to your expectations. Be and let be.”
Ps. I love my dad for being the great man he is. Here is a piece I wrote for him on his birthday.