Expectation management (EM) is simply the process by which we manage our expectations. More advanced, it’s a lens with which to analyze the world, life, and our influence in it.
This article will cover 3 aspects of EM that I apply daily. May it serve you well.
- Managing your expectations of yourself.
- Managing your expectations of other.
- Managing other’s expectations of you.
Nail these 3 and you’ll be die happy.
#1. Managing Your Expectations of Yourself. Personal-EM
When Personal-EM is out of whack, we experience all sorts of nasty things. Negative stress, worry, anxiety, disappointment, exasperation, low self esteem, and on and on and on. This is an epidemic in our society.
If you believe that you should be at level Y, but in reality you’re at level X. Dissatisfaction ensues.
- I should be making $100,000 per year, but I only make $40,000 per year.
- I should be having sex 7 days a week, but I only have sex 0 days per week.
- I should have 10,000 twitter followers, but I only have 200.
- I should weigh 180 lbs, but I weigh 300.
- My partner should love me, but they don’t.
- I should love my partner, but I don’t.
- I should have a partner, but I don’t.
- I should [insert anything], but I don’t.
We accept without questioning many influences in life that tell us things should be a certain way. Media and advertising paint unrealistic pictures of success, and we assume they’re true.
Start instead with the belief that: pretty much everything is bull shit.
The root causes of these misinformed expectations actually isn’t that important. The reality is that the expectations are what they are, and we have to deal with the business of the matter. No use crying over spilled milk (although I do, every time I spill milk).
The cure is awareness. Intense awareness coupled with intense realism. Awareness leads to the end of “unknown unknowns”. If you’ve ever worked on anything, you know that the most frustrating (and expensive) problems to solve are the unknown unknowns. This removes a lot of them.
Why am I frustrated with my job? partner? body? etc?
The answer is usually because you have an unstated expectation that things should be different than they are in reality. Awareness combats this. Simply put, being aware that poor EM is what’s happening is usually enough to cure the negativity these situations bring.
As soon as you’re aware, a decision must be made. Either you remove the limiting belief that is causing your mismatched EM, or you reaffirm your belief in that expectation and set about forcing reality to bend to meet your will.
Personal stories help elucidate points.
Weight used to be a big issue for me. I was chubby throughout middle school, and in high school I’d vary. But I was always one of the bigger guys. Really, i wasn’t that big (about 225 throughout high school). But I got told all the time that I was bigger. This belief became internalized. I think it started before high school. I remember when I was 9 or 10, we were doing back to school shopping and I had to buy Husky pants. The kind that are a little bit bigger at the waist.
First, whoever came up with the idea of husky pants are total dicks. I wasn’t fat when I was 10. But I was told that I was, then I got fat to reaffirm the belief that authority figures had instilled in me. Lame.
After high school and the de facto end of any of my participation in athletics the high carb/fat diet that I’d been raised on escalated and my weight gradually climbed, 5 lbs here, 10 lbs there every few months until I managed to tip the 300 mark on the scale.
Then I got depressed. Having officially became the fattest fuck in the history of fat fucks didn’t sit well with me. But being a stubborn, set in my ways fatso makes any sort of self enforced behavioral modification tough.
The reality is, this was the longest running streak of negative Personal-EM I’ve had in my life. Since I was about 10 years old I’ve felt, in a very real, daily way that my body should weigh less than it does. Even when i was just growing naturally through puberty I felt bad that my weight was increasing. I literally felt bad!
This limiting belief led to me really sucking at a lot of things. I was awkward with girls when I was younger, “because why would they like a fatso like me?” I sabotaged any relationship with girls who actually liked me. I really believed that there must be some character flaw with that girl, if she liked a dope like me.
I was constantly unhappy with all forms of my physical appearance, and as a result a really insecure, weird dude. Sadly, I think most dudes are this way.
I’ve started to overcome all of this. All those old, negative beliefs have been crushed with an intense awareness of reality. I feel like I’m in an intermediate stage in regards to weight now. The debate is internal and ongoing. I expect that I should be exactly the way I am, as a result of the cumulative decisions I’ve made throughout my life. Now I debate what decision I want to make going forward.
Do I want to make serious changes to my nutritional lifestyle that will lead to me reducing my weight? Will the benefits of weighing less outweigh the loss of my hedonistic enjoyment of certain foods along the way? Will it be worth the trouble?
I haven’t made those decision yet. But I’m moving in a direction of incorporating a more healthy, sustainable way of eating into my life.
The linchpin wasn’t any change in the way of eating or exercising though. It was an alteration of my Personal-EM. The second I rejected the belief that I need to be different than the way I am in order to be happy. I got happy.
I regularly spend time “programming my brain” so that my Personal-EM is in alignment with my Personal-Reality.
The other option to deal with this is to “program my personal reality” so that it is in line with my Personal-EM. I don’t give up on expectations just because they aren’t what reality looks like. That would be the absolute in complacency. I spend a lot of time playing with reality to try and make it fit into what my desired Personal-EM looks like.
If I expect that I should dress really nicely, but my clothes are shit. I don’t necessarily just alter my expectation to believe I should dress like a slob. I buy new fucking clothes. This is where intense realism comes in. Ask, “what should it actually look like?”
#2. Managing Your Expectations Of Others. Social-EM
Do you find yourself being let down by others? Frustrated with peoples actions? Annoyed by someone? if you answer yes to any of these, or any questions like these that I didn’t write, chances are you have bad Social-EM.
If you want to ensure a life of absolute misery and disappointment, try to get other people to change the way they are. In most cases, it is an exercise in futility. It takes a really really special type of person to be able to effect meaningful change in other people’s personal behavior. People who successfully do this should be lauded as the champions that they are.
Personally, I’m way too lazy to expend effort in this department. So instead, I default to extremely careful planning of my Social-EM.
By default, I expect other people to behave exactly the way they behave. I rely on myself and my Personal-EM to determine which people I am going to have in my life. I have high standards for people, and when people don’t meet my standards, they don’t get to play in my game.
I get to do this because I’m up front about it all. Very very early in getting to know someone I have a conversation about my Personal-EM and what I want/require out of a relationship. I employ Hobson’s choice, and offer everyone a “take it or leave it” arrangement with me.
This doesn’t mean I am inflexible or uncompromising, or even overly demanding. One of my most fundamental relationship standards is that both parties will act in their own best interest. In any relationship, my own best interest is often to act in the other parties best interest. So a situation where both of us, aggressively act in each other’s best interest (all the while serving our own best interest) is the standard.
This makes relationships pretty easy. By putting it all out there up front, it gives both parties a sort of social contract to refer back to if there is ever any disagreement.
I don’t get mad at people when they don’t play along. I just don’t continue interacting with them. I aim to accept everyone, exactly as they are. If the person they are isn’t a fit for my Personal-EM, we don’t really have a serious relationship. It’s easy. I don’t demand that they change, or resent them in any way. I just go on my path, and happily let them go on their path.
There are enough people in the world for us all to be picky in who we have relationships with. As long as you know very clearly what it is that you want, and are prepared to share that truth with people, you’ll pretty much always find plenty of people to join. People who know what they want and work to achieve it, are immensely attractive to others.
Relationships where patterns are already set (long term/historic relationships) are usually where a lot more negative Social-EM happens. This might be better if it were called Intimacy-EM, but I’ll save that for another post.
It might seem like that’s a much harder space to navigate (because patterns are hard to break), but it isn’t. The process is the exact same as it is with a new relationship. Know what you want in very clear detail, express that truth, offer Hobson’s choice (take it or leave it).
Everyone, everywhere, has the right to renegotiate the terms of an interpersonal relationship at any time. If it isn’t working the way you want it to anymore, don’t let “that’s just the way it is” thinking hold you back. Retreat into yourself and decide what it is that you really want. If that want is going to affect the other member of the party, let them know. If they can’t reconcile with it, let them go!
Let them know, let them go. I like that 🙂
Make your judgment without emotion. Don’t let the fear offending someone, or hurting their feelings hold you back.
#3. Managing Others Expectations Of You Social-EM In Reverse
This hidden other side is how you get people to accept whatever reality you want to have.
Rule: Don’t allow people to expect something from you, if you’re not prepared to give it to them.
The general policy is that, if I haven’t expressly agreed to do something. You can’t expect me to do it. if I have agreed, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to frickin do it.
Do what you tell people you will do. Otherwise you’re just a loser. Word is bond yo. Be careful in what you commit to. Don’t commit to things for politeness sake or to not let someone down. That’s stupid.
Commit because you are willing, able, and eager to.
Personal Story: I suck at follow-up. If you want to meet me 3 days from now at a specified time I’ll say, “maybe. Call me that day at that time.” I don’t make plans very far in advance with other people because I am not inclined to actually do those things very often.
My life is hustle. Hustle is work. I do that work eagerly and aggressively at the expense of other luxuries in life. I make sure that everyone close to me knows and accepts this. Hustle means that I’m more inclined to spend Friday night at home responding to emails than I am to go do any fun social activities. Work is more fun to me.
For all these reasons and more. I’m not an easy guy to make plans with. I think that’s OK and it’s totally in line with my Personal-EM.
I get no conflict on this because I’ve cultivated a reputation of being that way among my friends. All’s good.
This website is probably one really really long, drawn out move to to increase that reputation. I guess we’ll see.
Parents: This one plagues a lot of people. Parents expect things out of us. And we’re not used to being allowed to tell them no. But we can now, we’re big kids.
I’m lucky to have generally supportive parents. They don’t try to stop me from doing things. But I think I conditioned them a long time ago (unintentionally) to be that way. I left home right after school, and have paid my own way since. I don’t ask them for money or rely on them for support, and they don’t bug me. We have a pretty healthy relationship that way.
In some ways, it’s a question of consent. I am a big believer in the importance of consent, in all areas of life. If I have not knowingly consented to someone else’s expectations of me, the expectations they have of me are not valid. If they try to force their expectations on me, they lose. I won’t be coerced. No way, no how.
It’s important to note that I hold myself to this same standard. I won’t expect something from someone unless they’ve given me consent to expect that. I don’t get mad at people that don’t do things I would like them to do, people don’t owe me anything.
Apply intense realism and self awareness to your own Personal Expectation Management to ensure that your expectations and reality maintain a happy relationship.
Take that some application and apply it to your expectations of others and free yourself from ever being disappointed by individuals or circumstances again.
Be ruthless in how you manage others expectations of you and be sure that you are only giving consent to the expectations you are certain you can meet.
Rinse and repeat!