It has been said by many that our ego expectations are the root of so much of our upsets, unhappiness, depressions, and sorrows. When our expectations are not met, it seems to be a natural response for us to not feel good. Our physiological responses are set up in an instinctual way that negatively impacts us when our emotional values are not met.
I don’t know about you, but life doesn’t usually go the way I want it to. If I have any exacting expectations, they usually aren’t met. I long ago learned this particular life lesson. That is just the way it goes. We are not in control of life itself. But guess what? There are billions of people out there, all with their own expectations and none of them are in control either. So… join the club!
Life goes the way it is going to go, not the way one individual person demands. Since we know we aren’t in control we just need to learn to deal with our expectations and roll with the punches that life throws at us. Our first step is to observe our usual way of reacting when we
don’t get our way. Some people react in very severe ways depending upon how attached one is to a particular outcome.
The issue at hand is this; the ego sees itself as the centre of the universe. If things don’t go the way it wants, it becomes invalidated or thwarted. Then it can become angry or sad. It’s as simple as that. When we don’t get our way, it reveals to our egos that it is not in charge. The ego doesn’t take a back seat very well.
Science has shown that our emotions are induced by the releasing of certain chemicals within our systems. If we have a disappointment, these chemicals may produce a body sensation and feelings that accompany it. We have all felt this type of stimulus-response before. How we respond to it is the key. Life really is all about developing positive conversations in our head in order to rationalise and manage our responses.
The worst way to handle our unfulfilled expectations is to feel sorry for ourselves and become a victim of our circumstances. Nothing good comes out of this. The stronger the attachment to an external expectation, the worse one will feel. The more of a victim we are, the deeper into a negative mode we may fall. As victims, we have no power to change anything.
Attachment to the external always suffocates inner peace.
– Byrant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life
This brings me to something that I feel needs clarification. In your pursuit of handling your expectations, you might have heard the phrase, just “go with the flow”. That sounds good in theory but I can’t buy into this concept totally. Going with the flow is a great place to start as most of us swim upstream against the very strong current of life. “Let go and let God” is another way of seeing that we are not in control and that the process is taken care of. We just need to learn that we can adapt with the process and become more of an observer, not a victim.
There is another side to this, as there is with everything in life. Duality rules! Duality is one of the central philosophies that shaped my book Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values. The opposite of just ‘going with the flow’ is the taking control of certain aspects of your life and aspiring to create a future that is influenced by your efforts. These are opposing ways of thinking, but as I explain in the book, they really are complementary if you approach it correctly.
Napoleon Hill wrote about getting what you want out of life in his masterpiece Think and Grow Rich. He believed that thoughts are ‘things’ that can be manifested into our physical reality if done with the right positive emotions and intentions. You can’t change your external realities but you can change your thoughts about them. There are an infinite number of ways to perceive life so why not choose to think about it in a positive way. There are a number of emotions that you have inside you; why not get in touch with the positive ones?
Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieve.
– Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich
You do have a choice if you want to grow and change. If you don’t want to grow and change then it is a good indication that your ego is firmly ensconced and in control. You want to continue to be right. Good luck with that! You will continue to get the same results and perhaps a downward emotional spiral will begin. Maybe a doctor can prescribe you some medication to help!
If we can begin with an intention to look at things from a different point of view then we have a chance to overcome our ego’s emotional attachments. This intention must include positive ways of thinking and finding positive emotions to accompany them. What we are doing is rewiring our brains that will in turn re-create our reality.
There are an unlimited number of ways to perceive life and our perceptions will in turn help to create how others react to us. If we are negative, people will probably be negative back. The opposite of this is true for positivity. How we interact with others opens up endless possibilities for our present and future.
Really, this is a simple concept. The hard part is to make our egos give up its control. The ego is sourced by fear and negative emotions. Our challenge is to change our mindset and our emotions to something positive and empowering. We must be diligent when the process doesn’t go the way we think it should. Patience, persistence, positive thinking, positive emotions, surrendering or adapting to the process, all will help us to ultimately get what we want. What I have found is that by going through our process, sometimes our perspectives change and what we want changes. Life is so wondrous and mysterious.
There is a difference between expectations and aspirations.
– Alex Kapranos
So, let us concentrate on our aspirations, not our expectations. Our aspirations are a steadfast longing for a higher goal; an earnest desire for something above oneself. Aspirations help us to become more than we are.
Expectations are all about satisfying our ego’s wants. The ego can never be truly happy. There is never enough for satisfaction. Expectations are our path to unhappiness.
It is in our power to choose. Choose well. Your emotional state is in your hands.
Scott Trettenero’s recent book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves, others and how the world works because of our differences. Scott has maintained a solo dental practice in Southwest Florida since 1981. His research on quality service in dentistry and his interest in human temperaments formed the basis for his first book, Unlocking the T-Code. He is married and has two children. You can follow him on Twitter @