The Cost of Expectations

The Cost of Expectations

Unmet expectations are the root cause of so much conflict, disappointment, anger, and the reason for failed relationships – both personally and professionally. I have seen this with business leaders, parents, couples, and individuals I work with. What sort of expectations do you have of your partner, your children, your friends, your employees, your employer…yourself? Maybe you aren’t even aware of your expectations, but as humans we all have them.

Expectations quickly become problems when we hold ourselves, and others, to them without a clear understanding of what those expectations are, and both a clear understanding and agreement of all parties involved. I call this the expectation box.

Much conflict and broken relationships could be mended with the management of expectations, both of others as well as ourselves. 

“Expectations feed frustration. It’s an unhealthy attachment to people, things and outcomes we wish we could control, but don’t.”  Steve Maraboli

The reality of life is that we see the world through our own filter. No two filters are the same, there is a layer of personal thought and experience in between our personal lens and reality. No-one is immune from this.

When we understand the power of our own lens, and that our thoughts about how someone should be, think, or act is based on our own personal thinking life becomes easier. We are the creators of our individual reality. Expecting others to see life through our lens is setting ourselves up for disappointment and conflict.

This might be hard to hear, but you can’t change someone with your expectations. When we drop the expectation box and replace it with connected conversations and realistic expectations relationships become so much more real.

When we accept others for who they truly are, we also are more likely to show up in a more genuine way. Accepting people for who they are – embracing who we are.

It’s empowering to take responsibility for our own lives, our own choices and give those around us the opportunity to do the same. This is where life becomes fun, challenging, playful, frustrating. We are the creators of our own reality.

I love when my clients see this. Parent-child relationships, couples, personal and professional relationships all benefit when they stop trying to ‘change’ the other person, ditch the assumptions that the other person should know what they are thinking, expecting, etc. It also diminishes the notion of blame or responsibility on others.  

What about you? Do you have an expectation box – with yourself, with your partner, with your children, friends, etc? Are you comfortable having a conversation with them about what you expect, a clear understanding of what that entails and agreement on their part?

The reality is that conflict, frustration, anger, hurt, etc. could be drastically minimized if we exchanged our expectations for an actual agreement. An agreement creates clarity, a common ground, and understanding of expectations. 

Thought Bomb Moment: Think of a person or relationship that is causing you to feel unsettled, angry, judged, wronged, etc., ask yourself, what’s in your expectation box? Do you think the other party clearly understands your expectations? Are they in agreement? If not, maybe it’s time to ditch the box. Trust me, life flows so much easier when we let go of the box.

Alternatively, you can take your expectations and turn them into agreements. This is a fabulous way of taking relationships to a deeper level, one based on clarity, a common understanding, and agreement. The conflict, hurt, anger, and resentment will be replaced by clarity and a commonplace to move forward from.

Be well. Be present. Be you.

Much love,


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