Why We’re So Often Disappointed, and What To Do About It

by Kimberly Cope

Public Service Announcement: The two biggest things that lead to disappointment are...drum roll please...perspective and expectation.
Perspective is defined as our outlook or viewpoint, and is unique to each individual and based upon our life experiences.
For example, I’m 5 feet tall and have experienced life as a short person. To me life looks normal from my 5-foot vantage point and things just are what they are. I’m quite used to looking up to catch most peoples’ gaze and my car seat is typically pushed all the way forward.

But today, for some reason, I placed my step stool in front of my kitchen sink, stood on it to wash my hands, and realized how low the faucet was. I started to laugh hysterically. So, this is what it feels like to be 5’ 8”. Kinda weird.
What quickly fell into place for me is that someone who is 5’ 8” would probably have no idea what it feels like to experience life from my perspective.  They probably couldn’t relate to:
  • Climbing up on the bathroom counter to clean the mirror
  • Having to strain to reach for hangers on the top bar of their closet
  • Stretching out comfortably with plenty of room to spare in economy class on an airplane
  • Wearing a size 5 shoe because wearing a size 7 would make them look like a clown
It’s all about perspective.
While I’m using physical height as an example, the contributing factors are endless: the people who raised you, where you were raised, what schooling you had, cultural traditions, societal pressures, spiritual/religious beliefs, friends, bosses, co-workers. The list goes on and on.
Even twins, who are uniquely tied together through genetics, won’t share the exact same perspective due to their differing life experiences. I think of perspective as the juiciness of life. It’s what makes you, you and me, me.
Enter expectations. Expectations are conditions we set based on our perspective. Read that again. EXPECTATIONS are CONDTIONS we set based on our PERSPECTIVE. Now, we just clarified that everyone’s perspective us unique only to them based upon their distinct life experience. Right? So here’s where we get into trouble.
When we have an expectation that someone else show up in a certain way, we’re presuming they share our perspective. But, they NEVER can or will. And to compound matters, we start adding conditions like ‘they should’, ‘they need to’, ‘they’ve got to’ to the equation to turn our expectations into rigid demands. And when things don't go our way we wonder "What's wrong with them?" Or, 'what's wrong with me?" Why do we do this? To maintain control of course. Because control feels good and is devoid of those pesky little things called surprises.
But the BIG illusion here is that we have control over other people, circumstances, or the world around us. We don’t. The only thing we truly have control over is our reaction and response.
So instead of setting ourselves and others up for disappointment, wouldn’t it be best for everyone NOT to expect things to be a certain way and instead stay open to the potential and possibility that exists in every situation?
If we did this, and then also stayed present to the unfolding before us, imagine how freeing that would be. What relief would come from knowing that you only have to manage your ‘stuff’ and not the stuff of everyone around you? How great could it feel to only be responsible for your responses and not the actions of others? What would it be like to make choices for yourself based on how good it felt, rather than worry about everyone else’s expectations?
So, the next time you start to tell someone how something ‘needs’ to be, remember that they’re a whole and complete person with a lifetime of their own experiences and perspectives. Perhaps instead of presuming you have the only answer, you might rather ask, “So, what do you think?”

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