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As the hype of the new year passes and we are getting back into what our personal schedules entail, it’s natural for us to have expectations of what we want this year to be like. To say the very least, 2020 was a difficult year for many. As 2020 was ending, I came across many social media posts that expressed a common eagerness for 2021 to begin so that this exhausting year could be left behind. Likewise, it seemed like others were also hesitantly asking, “what else could happen?” For some, the new year also means new year’s resolutions and new personal goals. I know I have a list of goals that I’m hoping to accomplish! I’m excited to work toward some of my goals and some others…not so much. What expectations do you have for this year? For yourself? For others?

What are Expectations?

Expectations are strong beliefs that something should or will happen in the future. Expectations can also be understood as anticipation, assumptions, or hopes. Having expectations is normal and natural. Setting expectations can have its benefits, say in a work setting. However, it can also have its setbacks. We can have expectations on everyday tasks, different experiences as well as the people around us. What happens when our expectations are let down? What happens when we don’t live up to our own expectations? We can be left disappointed and discouraged. This is when expectations can complicate things. Sometimes, having high expectations can often leave us high and dry.

A Perspective Shift: “I have to” vs. “I get to”

Personally, I function off of lists to get things done. I tend to keep mental lists, bullet points in my planner, chicken scratch reminders written on my hand, you name it! In my habit of creating daily lists, I tend to naturally create expectations of how things might play out. My lists helped me keep track of what I had to do.

“I have to wake up at 7:00 a.m.”
“Then, I have to go to class and sit in front of a computer for 3 hours.”
“After that, I have to go to a meeting at 3:00 p.m.”

Although organizing and planning was helpful, I noticed I began to dread some of my days because I had to do these things. When we say we have to do something, there’s a natural negative bias to it. When we say we, “have to do things,” or, “have to get up,” there’s a tendency to set up our days negatively. We naturally have that expectation that a task or experience will be dreadful or unpleasant. Instead, what if we said, “I get to?”

“I get to wake up and start my day right.”
“I get to learn more about my interests and be introduced to new things.”
“I get to connect with others and feel supported.”

A minor switch of words can make a major shift in perspective. This is one way we can shift our way of thought to change what we would normally view as an obligation, into an opportunity.

Becoming Aware of Your Own Expectations

So, how do we begin to notice our expectations? It’s helpful to reflect back on what naturally comes to mind when you’re anticipating something. Once you notice an expectation, determine what it is toward or who it is toward. Is it a certain outcome? Is it toward yourself or someone else? Start to ask yourself, “How is this expectation affecting me? How is it affecting my behaviors or beliefs? How is it affecting my relationships?”

We all have expectations. When we notice our expectations and reflect on how they affect our perspective, we have the ability to choose how we will behave and take action. If you feel like this blog resonated with you and want to talk through some of your own experiences with someone, please reach out to myself or one of the therapists here at Optimum Joy today!

Written by therapist Melissa Del Carmen

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