COLUMN: Strickely speaking: Expectations – be careful

Expectations can be a very good thing when they are used to set the standard for elements of one’s character, the consistency of one’s behavior, or the positivity of one’s attitude.  Expectations can also be a very good thing when purchasing goods or services, entering business arrangements, or using routine items.  We turn the faucet and expect water to come out.  We flip the light switch and expect the bulb to work.  We put our foot on the brake and expect the car to stop.  Many expectations are just taken for granted each day.

However, when expectations transition to what we accomplish, achieve, or acquire, they can be a very harmful thing as well.  Expectations placed on these types of things can lead to disappointment, despair, and even depression.  Unmet expectations regarding these types of items can rob one of joy, cause friction in relationships, and can severely alter one’s path in life.  Expectations targeting accomplishments, achievements, or acquisitions can be very dangerous in many ways.

I recall being a part of state championship teams my sophomore and junior years in high school only to have community-wide expectations of winning another one my senior year.  The expectations, both externally and internally driven, being so high that when we did win my senior year, it was more a relief than a celebration. 

I recently heard coach Dabo Swinney of Clemson University (in the midst of a tough year) comment that fans have let their expectations override their appreciation.  Clemson has had huge success in football the last ten years; however, this year has not been nearly as successful.  Swinny was reminding his fan base that success is not guaranteed nor something to take for granted. 

So, does that mean that we shouldn’t seek to accomplish things, achieve goals, or make acquisitions?  By no means is that what I am implying at all.  Let’s just replace expectation with aspiration and appreciation.  Expectation is the strong belief that something should or will happen.  Aspiration is the ambition/hope to achieve something.  The intent, passion, and desire can be the same with either word; however, aspiration takes the pressure off.  Aspiration allows one to enjoy the process of striving, seeking, and sacrificing.  

Set goals, have dreams, and look forward to creating new memories in the future.  Work hard, steward your time, invest your resources, and reach your potential.  However, don’t place expectations on accomplishments, achievements, or acquisitions.  Aspire but don’t expect.  Appreciate more than you expect.  Leave the expectations for character traits, behavior patterns, and things that we should be able to monitor and control to at least some extent.

The more we can replace expectations with aspiration and appreciation (regarding accomplishments, achievements, and acquisitions), the more joy we will experience, the more memories we will create, and the more life we will live!