[Expectations] are imaginary entitlements we treat as if real.

Expectations Are Resentments Waiting To Happen—More Like Minefields

Expectations Are Resentment Waiting To Happen
Photo by Chris Mai on Unsplash

# 83 on my 99 Life Tips–A List is: Expectations are resentments waiting to happen. Under promise and over deliver. Rinse and repeat.

I did not coin this phrase. I have, however, borrowed copiously from its minted vaults. 

Never was a truer truism uttered. “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” The oft-used quote is from author, Anne Lamott.

You can create expectations in others, or harbor them yourself

This is a sword that cuts in both directions. You may either harbor or create expectations. 

The directive in my advice is to the creator of expectations. If you create expectations that you lack either the willingness or ability to fulfill, you will be resented. End of story.

Expectations are a test drive of hopes you convince yourself are already real

On the other hand, if you harbor expectations that are unrealistic, wishful, or fantastical, not being based in a semblance of reality that can reliably produce them, you are resentment walking. It is important to think of expectations as hopes—only hopes. Unfounded expectations blow up, go up in smoke, cause disappointment, or fail to materialize in all sorts of ways. But they act on our emotions like a trial run at actualization. Because of this, if an expected outcome doesn’t turn out the way you imagine, it will blindside you emotionally. They are imagined entitlements we treat as if already real. So, of course, they make us act entitled, spoiled, and finally angry, as if we’ve had something that was ours stolen out of our very hands, if, in the end, they don’t happen as imagined.

Either way, whether by creating them, or by harboring them expectations in life determine so much of our experience of it. I’ve written before on the little equation, also not mine (forgive me, I’m a borrower as I already confessed above): Happiness=Reality-Expectations.

I try not to own things in my mind not already present in my hand. I usually expect the worst, even plan for it. It is quite a pleasant surprise, whenever the outcome exceeds my expectations. I prefer the delight of surprise to depression. I like to feel shocked by unexpected good fortune.

And if I set correct expectation levels for my kids, friends, girlfriend, customers, readers, and meet them, no one is the worse for wear. If I exceed them, I’m an instant hero. All good.

Whenever you face uncertainty about a person, an event, an outcome, set a very low expectation threshold.

The takeaway

When you face demands upon you; whether of your time, your skills, your expertise, or your level of involvement and engagement in some endeavor or other, be honest with yourself and the ones creating expectations of you in their minds. Don’t promise more than you can deliver. Under promise and over deliver.

If asked to do something and you sincerely doubt your ability to deliver and meet expectations, employ one of the most valuable words in our language, the pound for pound champion in terms of it’s positive impact on your life in proportion to the number of its letters. It is the word—NO

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