28 August 2022 | 2 mins

Why do we have expectations?

Expectations vs. reality meme

You know that moment when you feel like you suddenly find an answer to a problem that you’ve been thinking about for years. It happened to me when I realized that sometimes I feel sad because of my expectations. Then, I started to think about the idea of having expectations.

Why do we have expectations? What is the point? Just think about this; if you have expectations for something, there are three possibilities:

If you are good at setting expectations, you will likely feel neutral 70% of the time, as that is what you expected. When your expectations exceed reality, you will feel happy, but this will happen only 10% of the time (if you are not extremely lucky) When your expectations are not met, then you will feel disappointed. This will happen 20% of the time. If you are someone like me who always has high expectations from the situations for no reason, you will feel sad most of the time.

When I consider the perspective I just wrote, even if I become good at setting expectations, I will feel happy only rarely, and for the most part, I will feel okay. That was the point at which I realized that I should avoid having any expectations for any situation because by having expectations I was increasing my chances of feeling sad. Just think about these examples:

When you hear positive things about a new restaurant from your colleagues, you may start to have expectations. After looking at the reviews for that restaurant on the internet, you will expect the food to be even better. Then, you will go to that restaurant. For some reasons, something will go wrong, and your expectations won’t be met. Then, you will feel sad. If you hadn’t had any expectations to begin with, and you approached the restaurant with the mindset that it’s just another new restaurant, you would probably feel okay after having a bad experience. When you have no expectations, there is a 50-50 chance that the restaurant will be either good or bad. With high expectations, you will artificially increase the chances of that restaurant being good or amazing to 20-80 or 10-90. In truth, the chances will still be 50-50, so by raising your expectations, you are actually increasing your chances of feeling sad.

You can apply the same example for all the other situations in your life. When dating, if you talk to someone for some time online, you will start to develop expectations and start to create that person’s character in your mind. During the initial stages of dating, you will try to see if that person fits the character you imagined. If the person is not like the one you imagined, you will feel disappointed. If, however, you approached the date without expectations and treated the person as you would any other person you meet in everyday life, you might find the experience more enjoyable and have another date.

Another example; you see tons of tweets about the new movie on Netflix, you check the IMDb rating of the movie and see that it is 8/10. Then, you decide to watch the movie. You will probably have some expectations at this point. That movie can’t be bad, right? Otherwise, people wouldn’t talk about it on Twitter and the movie couldn’t get 8/10 on IMDb, right? You watch the movie and realize that it is another trash movie from Netflix. You feel sad because you wasted your time. If you didn’t have any expectations, you would probably be fine. If the movie turns out to be good, then you would feel super happy.

Also think about the expectations in your working life. Let’s say you are expecting to have a raise of 15%, since the inflation is 10%, you think that that’s what you deserve. During your 1:1 with your team lead, you learn that your salary will be increased by only 11%. You will probably feel sad. If you didn’t have any expectations, you would feel happy. Wow, a salary increase of 11%, more than the inflation. That’s cool!

After this realization, I’ve stopped expecting anything, and I’ve found that that makes me happier. I can enjoy every minute of every situation. On the other hand, I’m still thinking about whether there are any side effects to not having any expectations, and I haven’t found any so far.

If you find this post valueble, you can consider a donation. You can get updates about my blog via RSS or subscribe to my newsletter. You can also follow me on Twitter.

← How to apply for permanent resident permit in Germany