What if you learned that a word… just one word, is profoundly affecting your life in a multitude of negative ways? What if you then decided never to use that word again in your thoughts or your speech? What if by doing so it improved both your mental as well as your physical health? Just one word? Really, yes really…
Dropping a word out of your vocabulary is a whole lot easier to do than changing your diet, adding an exercise program, or taking a bunch of nutritional supplements. Yet, the benefits you will enjoy by simply removing this word and the filter that it creates in your brain, will have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
As long as there aren’t clinical reasons for you to feel this way, you will greatly limit feeling:
Let’s get to it…
The word is Expectations. Not high expectations, not low expectations, just having ANY expectations. The devastation that having expectations wreaks on your life are these:
1. You feel disappointed and unhappy
You think or say this: “The trip sounds like fun as long as everyone gets along.”
“As long as” is an expectation which of course means that the success of the trip is riding on that one thing. Like an ultimatum. The scenery, the accommodations, the food and the companionship are now secondary to the demand that your happiness is dependant on everyone getting along. You have set yourself up for disappointment and you’ve set up your companions that they better meet your expectations… or else.
Think or say this instead: “The trip sounds like fun. I hope everyone will get along”
You’ve left it open. Hope is a wish…a prayer if you will…it is not a demanding expectation. You’ve left room for whatever actually happens on the trip. When you wish for something rather than expect it, even if you end up getting something else, it can still be ok.
On the other hand, if you expect a particular outcome and you don’t get what you expect, your ‘happy’ is replaced with disappointment. A wonderful quote that I found on the web describes it this way… “disappointment is the psychological reaction to an outcome that does not match up to expectations. The greater the disparity, the greater the disappointment.” (modernghana.com/lifestyle)
You have control over feeling disappointed by eliminating “expectations” from your thoughts and speech pattern. You have control over inadvertently creating situations where there’s a probable chance you may end up unhappy.
2. You feel frustrated
You think or say this: “I’ve done everything to get him to put his dirty clothes in the hamper but he won’t.”
“I’ve done everything” means, in expectation-speak, that you fully expect that he’ll put his clothes in the hamper because you told him over and over and made it so clear. Clearly not true. His clothes are not in the hamper, and you’re really frustrated.
Think or say this instead: “It would be less work for me if he put his clothes in hamper.”
Now what happens when he doesn’t? You’ve got just a little more work to do instead of a pile of mounting frustration. If this is an adult that you care about, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to change their behavior just because you want to. If this is a child you’re dealing with, it doesn’t mean that you won’t impose consequences to his behavior. It does mean in both cases that you won’t be as likely to experience the elevation of your blood pressure brought on by frustration.
Yes, “Emotional stress, frustration, and feelings of futility contribute to high blood pressure.” (lifeclinic.com)
It goes like this…You have the expectation and they have the power to do or not do what you expect. By eliminating “expectations” tied to another person’s behavior, you eliminate frustration when the outcome doesn’t go your way. Your blood pressure will not be raised from that and the entire encounter will have a way different outcome…for you.
3. You feel stressed
You think or say this: “I expected you to be on time and now we’re late.”
If you know the tardy person well, you know by now that they’re more likely to be running late… yet you still expect them to be on time? Awww. If you want to keep this person in your life, know that although being on time would be something you would prefer, they’re probably going to be late. You sure could lower your stress if you would stop expecting that they’ll be on time.
Think or say this instead: “Hi, you look really wonderful.”
It’s your choice that you care about this person. If you do, the best way to show genuine care about them is to love them the way they are. Not doing so can create negative health outcomes for you in the form of hypertension which is tied to a whole host of health issues including heart disease.
According to The American Institute of Stress, “… it is not surprising that hypertension is viewed by many as also being indicative of a state of increased emotional tension, anxiety, or stress.”
“Expecting” that you can ‘fix’ someone’s behavior is a guaranteed formula for triggering stress and affecting your health by raising your blood pressure.
4. You feel unappreciated
You think or say this: “I spent all day choosing and preparing your favorite meal and you’re not here because you’d rather have a beer with the guys?”
Did you ask him if this was a good night to serve him a special meal? No? But you expected that if he loved and appreciated you he would read your mind, know this was a special night, abandon his plans and praise you for your wonderful meal?
By wanting to ‘surprise him’ you set yourself up to feel unappreciated. You expected that your (unknown to him) effort would trump his previous plans. Uh oh!
Think or say this instead: “I’d like to make a special dinner for you, will that work tonight or should I make it another night?”
Can you feel the relief? It is so attractive to a man (or a woman) when you take into consideration that they have interests in addition to those they share with you.
By eliminating “expectations” regarding the response of another person to what you do, their appreciation level will definitely go up and your feeling of being unappreciated will disappear.
5. You feel depressed
You think or say this: “We’re going to a party tonight and I bought a new dress that should get lots of compliments.”
You’re going to the party with a full-on expectation that you will get lots of positive attention and be admired because you look so good. The music, the food, fun conversation… all that will be lost if you don’t get the attention you expect. Then you’ll feel depressed.
Think or say this instead: “We’re going to a party tonight, I’m so looking forward to it.”
This is a totally different approach: There is nothing specific that you expect to get out of the evening, so you’re open to whatever the party and your interaction with the people there will bring, including whether or not you receive compliments on your new dress.
As a further example, when you go to a new job, an event, a shopping day, or even just have a dinner at home, by letting it all unfold without any pre-established expectations that are demanding a certain outcome, you will be open to receive unexpected positive results.
Many conditions outside of your control can cause depression, but you can have total control over this particular one… your thoughts.
According to Scientific American “… people prone to depression are much more sensitive to perceiving the negative in situations.” Having unmet expectations raises the chances of viewing the actual outcome in a negative light.
Eliminate having “expectations” and you minimize having unmet expectations that can lead to you feeling helpless, hopeless and depressed.
6. You feel unloved, unwanted and isolated
You think or say this: “I have no one to talk to at those events. No one is interested in me.”
You have a clear expectation that other people should seek you out as a sign that they care about you. When they don’t voluntarily come over to you and engage you in conversation, your expectation that they should, sets you up for feelings of being unloved, unwanted and isolated.
Think or say this instead: “That is a big event, I’m grateful to be invited.”
Gratitude opens pathways to receiving whatever comes your way. Gratitude also can help you feel confident and brave because you’re not just thinking about yourself. With that attitude you’re much more likely to seek other people to talk to, and even if you don’t, you’ll be taking in the environment of the event through a lens of being grateful and simply happy to be there.
According to The Mindfulness Project’s article on “8 Wellbeing Benefits Of Practicing Gratitude”—“Gratitude strengthens relationships, not just with people we know, but with other people in general.” And… “we become less selfish, as we no longer feel such a need to look out for our own interests above others.”
Substituting having a sense of gratitude in place of having “expectations” will enable us to reach out to others and in turn be less inclined to feel unloved, unwanted and isolated.
Wrap-up: The concept that having “expectations”… any expectations… can affect our lives through our moods, our health, and our relationships is very real. Take your power back. Eliminate expectations from your life. You have complete control over allowing your “expectations” to negatively affect you.
Practice exercising an open thought pattern as opposed to limiting positive outcomes through preconceived expectations.
Your friends, relatives, and your own health and well being will thank you!