When it's worse than expected

Expectations are the root of progress. Without an expected outcome no one would ever know what they were working toward; nothing to measure success. If I work hard I expect an A. We need this concept to set the finish line toward which we strive. It’s sort of cut and dry for practical goals, but what about dynamic human relationships?

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

I read this in a fortune cookie once. If you put them all in there and you drop the basket you’re probably going to lose some or all of your eggs. It’s a well-known saying, right?

How much do we actually live by this? Especially in our full throttle instant gratification seeking society? How do we handle it when our expectations aren’t met?


Personally, I struggle with it. I have such high expectations for myself, and generally I work hard so I usually live up to them. Definitely not always, but I set the bar high when I know I can reach it. What about the other people in my life? Am I setting unrealistically high expectations for them?

When you care about someone its almost impossible NOT to set expectations for that person. The issue for me is when I make a personal investment in others’ affairs. I see them putting all their eggs in one basket and want so desperately to take some of them out and put them back in the fridge. I only want the best for them, right? When they don’t let me save some of their eggs, I tell them to be careful and expect they’ll listen and won’t drop the basket. Perhaps they leave it on top of the car and drive away or leave them sitting out overnight.

Choice of response

In reality, my expectations aren’t always going to be met. They especially aren’t always met when they are expectations for others’ behavior, because I have no control over other people. I’m not to the point where I can’t prevent myself from setting those expectations because I think it’s a subconscious automated mental pattern. I might not ever get there. However, I am learning to practice the Small Act of noticing when an expectation has been set, either automated or by communicated agreement, and then choosing how to respond to the outcome.

If I am disappointed or let down by an expectation that wasn’t met, I am choosing to hold on to and feed those feelings. The freedom from this torment is choice. I don’t have to cling to the disappointment. I can choose to detach and react with compassion rather than anger or self-pity because I didn’t get my way.

You can't always get what you want

What more is an expectation than a desire to get what you want? I’m only enabling a cycle of childish mental tantrums if I continually choose to judge myself or others for not making the choices I think are appropriate or that live up to my high standards.

I’ll take care of my eggs, let them take care of theirs, and still love them even if they forget their eggs on top of the car.