The Premeditation Game
I love word games. How many words can you make from the letters found in the word “EXPECTATIONS”? I’ll get you started with a few: pectin, cape, exact, noise. Here is one I bet you didn’t guess, “RESENTMENT”. Is the saying true that, “expectations are premeditated resentment”? I hadn’t heard this phrase before today so I decided it was time for a little research and then what I love to do best, tell you a story.
ME: First of all, I have to admit I am a bit confused about something. Isn’t it normal to have expectations?
The blond: “It’s a given—you are born with expectations. If I expect to be disappointed, I am usually disappointed. I like to go into a situation knowing what I am going to get out of it. Not that I am a control freak or anything.”
ME: Well, this is depressing. Where is the spontaneity or the fun? Negative thoughts lead to negative actions; a self-fulfilling prophecy. I either consciously or subconsciously influence you (and myself) to behave in a way that confirms my prediction. Another human tendency—-wanting to be right!
The blonder: “What? “
ME: OK, I will let go of my negative expectations but why can’t I hold on to the positive expectations? I will influence you in a positive way, right?
Yoga girl: “It’s complicated. You can’t control another person (as much as I have tried this is true) but it has been proven that if teachers make a student feel competent, they will perform better. Focus on what you can contribute rather than what you will receive. Encourage the behavior you want to see and let go of the outcome.
ME: Let go of what? This is a whole other subject but I am starting to see that holding any expectation is a set up. OK, I will not hold on to any negative or positive expectations. Is this what enlightened grownups are supposed to do?
Salvation Army man: “Why not just be thankful, pretty lady?”
ME: Now we’re getting somewhere. Rather than setting expectations, I need to find my gratitude. Everything I need is here and now. (Oh geez, I sound like a Hallmark card!) Can I really replace expectations with gratitude?
New Mom: “I am not sure but I did put a cute sign on my front door that says, “Leave your shoes and bad attitude outside.”
ME: I believe I have confirmed that holding expectations lead to a multitude of negative feelings including resentment. Rather than wishing for a behavior or outcome, I will simply enjoy the moment. I’ll find something to appreciate rather than judge. I’ll ease into the present moment, taking what I like and leaving the rest.
Girlfriend: “So just to confirm, I hear you saying that you will….One, let go of expectations and two, find gratitude in the moment.”
ME: Yes, and three…. if you insist on spoiling my day by bringing out your sarcasm or judgment or blame or anger or perfectionism, I may have to pull out a can of whoop ass on you. I am on a path of enlightenment but I won’t let you walk all over me and pollute my space.
Sounds good so let me repeat my strategy. 1) Let go of expectations. 2) Find gratitude in the moment. 3) Whoop ass if you get in my way!
My conclusion is simple. When I have expectations, I am waiting for someone or something to “fill the gap”. I don’t want to give anyone that much power.
Lucky for me, I didn’t have any expectations for Thanksgiving this year except that no matter what, I was going to have a good weekend. It was a FIRST—my first Thanksgiving without my spouse in twenty four years. Even if I had spent the day alone, I was in a good place emotionally. After a good morning cry I felt excited about building a healthy future. What I hadn’t realized is that letting go of expectations is one of the greatest gifts I can give myself. I am giddy girl grateful. No whoop ass necessary (at least at the time of posting!)
From the heart,