Where’d Your Expectations Come From? Who Made Them, Anyway? Did the Stork Bring Them? And While We’re On This Topic, Who Has Expectations of You…And Why?

Where do expectations come from?

Are they just fancy imaginations from the peanut gallery? Do your expectations have anything to do with reality? Whose reality? Yours or someone else’s?

Expectations are powerful forces.  It’s your expectations that make your life move forward in a particular direction.

Expectations fire up emotions.  Whether you have expectations of people within close or distant relationships (friends, lovers, families, communities, governments or countries), it is your expectations that create either hope or dread.

Your expectations are the foundation of your emotional highs and lows.  Admit it!

Rewards feels fabulous when your expectations are fulfilled.

Disappointment feels brutal when your expectations are unfulfilled.

The thing is, your expectations create tension. Hope jazzes up your muscles just as much as dread does it.

Yes.  Your expectations can make you nuts.

The good news…no, the great news…is that you are totally in control of your expectations.

Even more, you control of what others’ expect of you.  Mmm-Hmm.  You read that right.

Stopstopstop…before you click out of here. take a breath and remember, this is not about beating you up or anything like that.  It’s about giving you the information you can use to change your life.  To make you feel better.  Trust me.

Okay.  Onward.

Have you ever considered where your expectations come from? Instead of pretending expectations are dropped off by a stork, it’s time to look within. Instead of blabbing on about having healthy or shared expectations, let’s go deep. To understand why you have expectations of anyone, let’s first find out:

What do others expect of you? And why?  (Do these two questions make you tremble?)

To keep it simple, let’s break it down into four parts. Here is the formula that will help you understand how anyone gets to the point of expecting something of you.

To be in a community with other people, who are observing, listening, perceiving, paying attention to and interacting with you, these four parts of you co-exist:

(1) Who you project to yourself to be (to yourself) +
(2) Who you project yourself to be (to others) +
(3) What you offer to others and the world, by your intentions, words, choices, actions and inactions +
(4) What others expect of you. (That is based on # 1, #2 and #3.)

This little list is worth fleshing out.

• Who you project yourself to be (to yourself) comes from who you believe you are; how you act towards you.

• Who you project yourself to be (to others) comes from who you believe you are (to others); it is demonstrated by your attitude, the role you play and how you act towards them.

• What you offer to others and the world by your intentions, words, choices, actions and inactions is obvious to others. It shows up in what you do and what you have, as well as what you don’t do and don’t have. What you seek and avoid demonstrates what you believe; others observe your seeking and avoiding. (No. They are not staring at you, studying you. They are, simply, during the course of their lives, observing you.)

What others expect of you is the natural conclusion they draw from the prior three elements of the whole.

Yes. Other people’s expectations of you start, indeed, with you.  Yes.  Other people’s expectations of you are, indeed, your problem. So, stop saying “It’s their problem.” People expect something of you by observing the first three elements of the formula.  Of course, it’s your problem. It involves you, doesn’t it?

Expectation. So what is it?

Expectation is a person’s (or team’s or community’s) belief that a specific behavior, choice, action, inaction or result will take place in response to a specific stimulus, at a specific time, and possibly, even, in a specific way.

An expectation is not an inert object or just a fact. It is an animate, active expression of who someone is; that is why there are so many feelings associated with an expectation.  Remember, it’s a force.

Prove it to yourself.

Since you can most easily study your own expectations of others, do an experiment. Start now. You have had expectations of people. Start with one example. Select a time when someone really let you down.

Take a moment to ponder how you came to conclude the feeling of the expectating something of that person.

• Who did that person project himself to be towards himself?
• Who did that person project himself to be towards you?
• What did that person offer to you and to others, by his intentions, words, choices, actions and inactions? By what he sought and avoided?
• What was the natural conclusion you made about what you expected?

Do you notice your expectation was the natural conclusion of the first three elements of the formula, above?

When you’ve felt your expectations have been met (whether you liked or agreed with the result), you have felt a kind of certainty, sanity and stability. That’s because it all lined up.

By contrast, when an expectation has not been met – of course you have been surprised – you have felt a kind of uncertainty, insanity and instability. It feels like reality was turned on its side.

Now, think of a time when someone has had an expectation of you that you did not fulfill. What part did you play in another person’s uncertainty, insanity and instability? Look back at the first three parts of the formula to find out why someone came to a conclusion about what could be expected of you.

Understanding the mechanics of how you’ve come to expect something of another person is a GAME-CHANGER.

The next time someone expects something of you, you will be able to consciously reflect, and figure out what part you played in the expectation.

The next time you have an expectation of someone else, you will have an idea of how it came to be.


Mind you, being human is a complex experience.  No one catches every bit of information or sensory stimuli.  If we did, we’d implode.  Or we’d poof into light or something.  So stop trying to be enlightened, to see 360 degrees around you or to have the right answers.  Just be you.  You are perfect as you are; learning as you go; expressing what you know.

When you choose how to express yourself to yourself, and to make it your business to express yourself to others, you will offer yourself to the world in the most authentic way, and no one’s expectations of you will surprise or offend you.