Expectations are ruthless.
Unless … wait for it … those expectations don’t exist!
I’ve actually known a handful of people who refuse to get excited about anything. Their rationale: “If you don’t have any expectations, you can’t be disappointed.”
They’re not wrong, but what a woebegone and glum life to live. I couldn’t imagine living like that. But here’s the dramatic irony … I get disappointed all the time. I get disappointed, because I live with a colossal amount of hope.
Real quick … let me clarify.
Yes, I am extremely hopeful and optimistic, but …
I don’t expect every moment or event to be sprinkled with cosmic unicorn dander.
I don’t expect Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah and a ballet of bluebirds every time I walk out the front door.
I don’t expect everything to go my way every time I step out on that scary limb of uncertaintity.
I don’t expect perfection in any shape, form or fashion.
Radical honesty: My disappointment revolves around the expectations that I have unwittingly placed on other people.
There. I said it.
And I’m able to confidently say it, because I just recently realized that this was the primary source of my disappointment. It took me 48 years to wrap my mind around this truth.
This validation showed up unexpectedly in the most random place – my LinkedIn News Feed. It was a nondescript, homemade meme. I can’t swear that the person who posted the image actually created it, but he easily could have (shout out to Josh Hammonds).
Let me paint a picture of this simplistic post.
It's a cream-colored piece of paper, ripped out of a spiral notebook. It’s folded several times. Someone is holding the paper along the frayed edge; it appears to be a man’s hand. Six words are written in black ink. Maybe with a nice gel pen. These six words are scrawled across the faint blue lines of the spiral paper. The handwriting is pleasant, but not perfect; easy to read. There is no punctuation. There is a little bit of ghosting from something written on the other side.
The message: “Stop expecting you from other people”
It was a simple image and a punch-me-in-the-face message.
When I saw it, I literally stopped cold and said, “Oh!” Then I proceeded to stare at the image for well over a minute and let those six words sink in. With every second, my disappointment over all these years started to make perfect sense to me.
My bold realization: I have expected everyone else to operate just like me.
Give as much.
Love as boldly.
Work as hard.
Be as extra.
Communicate as well.
Believe as strongly.
As I write these words, I can’t determine if this is a healthy revelation or an ego-driven admission.
I pray it’s not the latter. I’m just being real and trying to process all of this.
I guess the key is what I do with this new-found information. For me, penning a blog post about it is always a good place to start.
Start writing … check!
But now I have no idea where to go with this realization. I feel like there is a literary fork in the road, because I could take this blog post in two different directions.
Option 1: I could write about losing touch with good friends and how much that sucks. I’m talking about people who were once in my inner circle, but who are now ghosts. I’m referring to my ride-or-die buddies. Close comrades. Bestest pals.
Now they’re gone.
I could write about all the expectations and disappointments that swirl around those estranged friendships.
Option 2: I could write about daily interactions with people who are simply in my life for a reason or a season. These are professional acquaintances and/or people I’ve just recently met. These are people on the outside of my inner circle looking in.
My decision … I’m going to save No. 1 for a future blog post. It deserves that much attention, because I really struggle with losing touch with close friends. That life-long trend hurts my heart in ways I can’t begin to explain right this second. Stay tuned.
But I also struggle with some of these “fringe people,” too – the ones in Option II. They have a tendency to leave me disappointed, as well. I have just as many expectations for them.
If I email you … email me back.
If I text … acknowledge it in some way.
If I call …
You get the point!
As I’m working through this narrative, I’m staring at a list of people on my To Do List that I’m waiting to hear back from. I keep these reminders under the heading: “Trust Fully…”
Some of these people I’m currently working with on projects. Some I have ongoing engagement about a speaking opportunity. Some I have sent a meeting request. Some are sitting on vital questions that I need answers to. Some have proposals that I typed up per their request.
Every circumstance is different, but each person on this list has the metaphorical ball in their court. (And a lot of them have a follow-up email in their Inbox that says: “Since my messages tend to vanish into cyberspace, I wanted to resend this…”)
It all comes back to my lofty expectations in other people and the overwhelming disappointment that comes along when those expectations aren’t met.
If I’m going to reply in a timely matter … I expect other people not to wait weeks or even days to get back to me.
If I’m going to be on time for Zoom call or meeting … I expect other people not to be late.
If I’m going to be intentional about getting together … I expect other people to at least glance at their calendar.
Because at some point … wait for it … I start to take that shit personally. The unreturned text messages start to sting. The ignored voice mails start to piss me off. The constant, “yeah, yeah … we’ll get together soon” starts to become trite.
So … there are my guts.
But again … what the hell do I do with this new-found awareness?
I go back to my To Do List and the list of people who have left me in a holding pattern. Again, I have intentionally put them under the heading of “Trust Fully…”
What does that mean?
It’s about not worrying or stressing or getting my feelings hurt about their radio silence. It’s about trusting God’s plan and His timing. It’s a powerful reminder that I’m not in control.
Sure, I can send one more email or extend one more meeting invitation, but here is the key: “Trust Fully…” forces me to remove any and all expectations when I remain intentional and follow-up again.
Here is a promise: I’m going to keep doing me!
I’m going to keep being over-the-top intentional and striving to be a badass in everything that I do. I’m also going to keep living with hope and optimism. That’s me!
How am I going to squash any potential disappointment?