Funny how most of the important parts of our lives don’t come with any instructions. But buy a $10 toaster and inside the box you’ll find an owner’s manual with detailed instructions on how to turn soft room temperature bread into warm crusty bread. Usually this information is translated into several different languages, ensuring that a language barrier will never prevent any one from enjoying the simple pleasures of toast.
As much as I enjoy toast and the science and technology behind it, I’d like to think that a troubleshooting guide to life’s deeper questions would be far more valuable than figuring out how to get my bread to toast a little lighter.
Life, and all the questions that come along with it, is just one of those things you have to figure out on your own.
Perhaps life is just far too complicated to have all its mysteries resolved by following a few simple steps. And since no two of us are exactly the same, instructions that may work for one of us probably wouldn’t work for the other.
A whole lot of trial. A whole lot of error.
If life did have an owner’s manual, I would hope it would have a chapter on expectations. Expectations can get you into trouble. They can set you up. They can paint you into a corner.
They can also set you free.
I’ve had some real difficulties over the years with expectations. Not so much with the concept of expectations; rather, my issue was with the quality and focus of my expectations.
In looking back I found that the vast majority of my expectations concerned other people. My focus was on what I expected from others, on how they behaved relative to how I felt they should behave. Having your expectations unmet is tremendously stressful, especially when the expectations are unrealistic in the first place.
One of the greatest “benefits” of others not living up to the expectations you place upon them is that it creates someone to blame. Having someone to blame is the perfect way to avoid taking responsibility for your life. It’s someone else’s fault that life isn’t going the way it should be. It’s a great place to hide if hiding is what you want to do for the rest of your life.
Life is far too important to simply hide, especially when that life is your own.
At some point I figured out that the clash between reality and my expectations was a war that I was fighting from within. I was expecting green to be blue. There is never a victor in a war against reality.
My personal growth has coincided with a different focus for my expectations. The me-at-war-with-reality self had been busy designing expectations for others. The wiser, battle-scarred version of me now spends the time placing expectations on myself for myself.
If I had to capture my new focus in a blanket statement it would read something like this: “Expect nothing from anyone, and everything of yourself.”
For someone who claims to be a positive optimistic person, the “expect nothing from anyone” portion of the above statement can look pretty negative, almost defeatist. But within the context of being fully responsible for your life, the statement in its entirety makes perfect sense.
Sure, I do expect certain things from those closest to me in my life. And I feel as if I have not lowered my expectations simply to avoid the possibility of any emotional disappointment that may surface because I feel that someone didn’t live up to their part of the “deal”. As I’ve matured spiritually, I’ve gotten to the point where I understand that my responsibility is more about giving than receiving. The friendship, love, and support I offer to those closest to me is unconditional, even if their actions “let me down”.
No deals. No grudges. No keeping score.
So today I focus my energies on the one person in the world I really need to establish expectations for. Me. My expectations for myself are more about how I approach life and the energy and commitment I bring to each day. I expect myself to appreciate all that I have and all that I have been given. I expect myself to see opportunity in all situations. I expect myself to be a source of light and positivity. I expect myself to be unselfish, to give without expecting anything in return. I expect myself to live up to the divinity of my creation.
It sounds like a lot to live up to. And many days I probably don’t. And when I don’t I no longer beat myself up for letting myself down. I just try again tomorrow.
But even partial success is a step in the right direction. My focus on me helps me become the best version of me, the me I was created to become, the me that has something real and tangible to offer the world.
Living Half Full is about shifting expectations inward in hopes of becoming all that we are capable of becoming. We all have something real and tangible to offer the world. Stressing over how others aren’t meeting our expectations will never help us get to where it is we are supposed to get to.
So, what do you expect of yourself?
It’s a great day to be you!