Who’s Training Our Expectations?

Living Well

People comprise endless possibilities. And whatever we see in them reflects what’s active in us concerning them.

So it helps to understand where we’re coming from, in our behavior toward people. Are we reacting from autopilot, based on expectations that they’ve trained us toward? Or are we responding conscientiously from an expectation we’ve chosen, based on what we want from life?

Our perspectives are powerful.

One of my friends carried old pain around for years. Separating from his ex hadn’t brought him the relief he wanted, because it wasn’t her that he needed to let go, but rather the part of himself that he disliked in her.

As long as his painful thoughts and feelings continued, so did his unpleasant interactions with his ex. He wanted the situation to get better, but it couldn’t until his beliefs about it changed, because his ex could only be for him whatever he expected her to be.

Momentum had built in a painful direction. And it’s not easy to redirect momentum when we’re in the middle of it. So it was difficult for him to choose new thoughts that could make him feel better.

Until one day when the spell was finally broken. He was visiting with a mutual friend, and she was describing the wonderful life of his ex. He was listening thoughtfully and peacefully to her words without reacting. And then he said, more to himself than to the friend, “That’s nice for her. And I’m also living a wonderful life.”

With that genuine, neutral statement, he affirmed his ease concerning his past decisions and the current conditions. And because resentment and appreciation can’t coexist, the situation began to transform, beginning with his perspective.

We can’t create beyond our current expectation. 

Our expectations about people and situations tend to be deep-rooted, because we’ve built patterns of thought and behavior that we keep repeating. When we say “he is…” or “she is…,” our next words indicate our choice of what will be true for us. And nothing can change until we’re willing to change our perspective.

“Have I trained my expectation purposefully?”

Or are current events training our expectations of life? Or events from the past? Or fears about the future? Or our exes? Or a depressed colleague? Or a gossipy friend?

If we don’t have our norm figured out – which is the result of our beliefs, perspectives and attitude – before we see the person coming across the room, or before the email arrives in our in-box, or before the kids trash the living room, the moment to do it is past.

In fact, the best time to sort out our norm is before we get out of bed in the morning.

What’s our first thought?

These days, there’s a temptation to wake up, check the world situation, and then begin broadcasting through social media. We feel discord, and we want to do something. So we bang the drum of what’s not working, as if it’s possible to help a situation by making it wrong.

If we begin our day by letting anything outside ourselves tell us how to feel and act, we’ve given away our power to choose. Then we’re likely to blame people and conditions for how we feel.

If we come from a place of fear – redoing yesterday’s conversations, stressing over the trouble ahead, and thinking that we need to look out for ourselves – our day will reflect that. And by noontime, we may be thinking that we “got up on the wrong side of the bed!”

Take charge at dawn. 

Sleeping lets us set issues aside. And in the morning, we get to start fresh. But for some of us, it doesn’t take long after waking up to begin focusing on problems.

If we wake up and catch ourselves thinking unpleasant thoughts, that’s the signal to switch to some soft-talking. Consciously telling ourselves all the possibilities we can think of for how things will go well. Or just thinking about something else that makes us feel good, so that becomes the tone we set.

Take action from a chosen norm.

A few years ago, I purchased a painting online, while I was in the Netherlands and the artist was in Prague. But after making the payment, I heard nothing from him. A month went by. I emailed a couple times but received no answer. It became the first thing I thought of each day – how to get the painting!

I vacillated between worrying and trusting. I’d bought from the artist successfully the previous year, and if I thought about that, I trusted. But the money was gone and there was nothing to show for it! If I thought about that, I worried. I kept going back and forth between the two scenarios: He was either recuperating from an accident in a hospital with no Internet, or he was off on a holiday spending my money!

Finally, I got him on the phone, and he was apologetic and begged for my forgiveness. He told me that his ailing brother in Armenia had needed him, there was no Internet, he was now heading home, and my painting was practically on its way.

What did I learn? When I choose what I want to believe about what happens and I consciously manage my thoughts, my feeling-response also changes. And from a better-feeling place, I can take effective action.

Life should be good. 

We’re supposed to feel good about ourselves and our lives. And we’re supposed to feel eager and vigorous, strong and secure.

So our first conscious awareness in the morning is the best time to stop and remember, “My day will develop out of my beliefs, perspectives and attitude, and my responses to whatever I encounter.”

We all have a creative nature inside that’s determining our day. Better to do it on purpose consciously – because we’re already doing it on purpose anyway.

We’re doing it through whatever approach we choose. And by choosing to be the master of ourselves, we become the master of our day.

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Pic by William G. Thomas

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Author, Blogger, Contributor to Thrive Global, The Good Men Project and HuffPost