In an article a couple weeks ago, I wrote about some methods I use for dealing with disappointment. Now let’s talk a little about what makes disappointment a thing, in the first place.

Expectations, are unavoidable. Whether they are placed on me by my family, the company I work for, or any other relationship I have, they are still mine to deal with.

As I look back on my life before recovery, I didn’t think I had very high expectations for myself. But I remember one time when I was talking to a buddy about having such a hard time with depression, he told me “Dude you are way too hard on yourself.”

Those words rattled through my brain for many years and still come around today. Honestly, I didn’t even know what in the hell my friend meant by being “too hard on myself.” It sounded right but It has taken years to figure out what he meant.

To me, being too hard on myself means that I am punishing myself for not meeting expectations. Expectations that for some reason or another, my mind and body feel like they should be meeting.

The words my friend spoke to me was in the middle of one of my hardest times battling addiction. For many years the only expectation I could commit to, was finding the ways and means to use more chemicals. This of course wasn’t the only expectation I desired to meet, not in the slightest! I wanted to hold down a job, be a part of my family, and create my own family. I was simply stuck, trapped even.

I got clean and made my way into recovery in November of 2008. And holy hell, talk about getting reacquainted with the past expectations I was never able to meet!

It showed up as anxiety, and I had a ton of it! All the things I “should” have been doing had stacked up, waiting for their turn to get some attention. I get the picture of an open door and 1000 people attempting to struggle their way through at the same time. Pure chaos.

Throughout my recovery the relationship I have with expectations has changed quite a bit. I have gone through periods where I was trying to meet every expectation possible. There have also been times where I have pushed back hard on any expectation that others may be trying to place on me.

Trying to be superman for people has helped me to get in touch with many emotions from the past and has helped me to learn many new skills! It also helped keep me clean as I did service for my recovery community. But with all the ambition I have for growing a family and a business of my own, on top of maintaining a job, I found myself burning out from too many responsibilities.

There have also been times where I have pulled back too far and tried to
convince myself that I didn’t care to meet hardly anybody’s expectations. This has led me to avoid places that keep me healthy. And would you believe it? I found my attitude getting crappier and crappier, and built up my anxiety to an unwanted level.

I have found that I don’t really have a choice about needing to meet certain expectations if I want desire to have a healthy life, and healthy relationships. For example, if I don’t meet the expectations of my boss for too long, I won’t have a job anymore. Neglect my wife too long, and you better believe that’s going to strain our relationship.

The fact of the matter is, that if I refuse to meet enough “reasonable” expectations that are placed on me, there is no way in hell that my relationships are going to grow and stay healthy. And if I don’t place enough expectations on myself for building a healthy life, then complacency and depression will rear their ugly heads.

Of course, I don’t have to meet every expectation that comes my way. And over the years I have developed some ways to decide what expectations I allow myself to take on, and here they are.

Managing Expectations

My Thoughts for Deciding Which Expectations to Make My Own:

1. Decide if I care to have a healthy life or not– If i care to have a healthy life, then I will be needing to create enough healthy expectations for myself. I may not like it, but it is a necessary “evil.”

2. Decide if I want this expectation on me- If I am feeling this expectation to get something done, I can ask myself a question. Do I really want to take care of this expectation? If I do, then I will commit to doing so. If not, then I will likely turn it down.

3. Decide if I want the possible rewards from meeting the expectation– In any healthy relationship, there should be potential rewards for being in the relationship. And I better be willing to put in the possibly hard work to meet the expectation, to receive them. For instance, when I started the My Life Experiment website! I knew that to get what I want out of this website, that a whole new world of expectations would erupt for myself. I decided that I was ready to take them on, because I sense great potential for future gains!

4. Decide If I am willing to deal with the risks of not meeting the expectation– If I am at work, I may not always want to meet all the expectations that are placed on me, but I need to if I want a paycheck! Or if I don’t want to meet the expectations at home I am going receive dirty looks. Sure, I could always not meet these necessary expectations for healthy relationships, but I better stay aware that there are consequences for deciding not to meet them.

5. Decide if it is my Responsibility in the first place– First of all I need to know if the expectation I am feeling is from a responsibility that is even mine. If I am feeling an expectation that I should be taking care of is someone else’s responsibility, then I probably need to drop the expectation. Because I am probably wandering into the overly codependent piece of my personality.

This list represents many moments of frustration and disappointment, and my learning what my experiences had available to teach me.

For My Life Experiment, I generally end up going from extreme to the other extreme, to find healthier ways of behaving. If you find yourself struggling with balance in this area, then hopefully this post is able to help you out!

The topic of expectations is a big one, so for next time I will be talking about finding ways to ease attachment to needing expectations to go our own way. Letting our relationships expect more from us. So stop back in and check that out!

If you enjoyed what you read here please share it with others. And if you have any other insights or questions, please leave them in the comment section below


Much Love,
Travis Hagen

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