Two teams compete in the Olympics.

Both win the Bronze.

One country is elated and the other disappointed.

So goes the power and toxicity of expectations.

When considering the word expectations, it’s almost impossible to imagine it without some qualifier.

High, low, exceeding, diminished, raised, wildest, lowered, defying, beating, surpassing, failing, great, outsized, living up to, playing down and on and on.

So unhealthy is our relationship with this word that when we say that something has “met our expectations,” we shrug our shoulders, suggesting some level of mild disappointment.

Expectations aren’t inherently bad, we should hold ourselves and each other to a certain standard in how we act and treat one another.  

But when tethered to some time of achievement, as expectations often are, we presume a level of complete control over outcomes that we simply don’t have. Ignoring the impact external forces often have on whether what we expect to happen actually will.

Going back to the Olympics example, this ranges from a blown call on a foul, someone getting injured or someone else performing exceptionally well on any given day.

The emphasis on expected outcomes brings pressure which sometimes can be good but often can seem unbearable. It can suck the joy out of the very thing we do because we enjoy it.  It tears us out of the present and places us in an all too unpredictable future. 

I prefer hope to expectations.

It still conveys a preferred outcome while offering some humility in respect to the actions of others and what is beyond our control.

As the saying goes, always hope….never expect.

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