Expectations vs. Reality

Something I think a lot about is whether or not expectations are a good thing. Some people say they forgo them altogether, but that doesn’t resonate with me. It’s true that by having no expectations you will never be disappointed, but how can you create anything new if you only accept the world as it is? I think that there are definitely situations in which having expectations are favorable, and this is me rationalizing that process.

Emotional suffering is created by the disparity between your expectation of what the world will be, your “ideal reality” and actual reality, the world as it really is. To alleviate suffering, the two have to be reconciled. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Change your current situation to resemble your ideal reality
  2. Change your ideal reality to suit your current situation

If you can change the world to suit your ideal reality, do it!! We have an incredible ability to change our environment to suit us, and the people who believe this and take advantage of it are way more successful than those that don’t. If you can change the world in a positive way as a result of your expectations, create something new that is different and better than the world used to be, that’s incredible. However, I think this is the only instance in which it’s good to have expectations – if they are realistic enough that you can actually change the world to mirror them.

If it’s not possible to change the world to fit your expectations and you’re suffering as a result, this will make you unhappy and upset. Unhealthy attachment to unrealistic expectations can definitely have negative repercussions. If your expectations are negatively affecting your life, you should let them go by pursuing the second option: changing your ideal reality to suit the real world by accepting what is. Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual teacher whose principle philosophy is to be in tune with the present moment. In many situations, this is a really good thing. It increases your awareness of your environment and greatly reduces the possibility of experiencing emotional suffering. When you are immersed in the moment, in the real world, there is no issue, no conflict, no reason for the disparity. However, there’s no motivation for you to change the world either.

I believe that the only instances in which you can’t change your current situation are those that involve other people, because you can control a lot of things, but other people’s actions are not one of them. This is why relationships are really good at teaching people to have faith and let go: it’s the only option left to alleviate suffering.

inspirations for this post:

– Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

– a failed relationship or two