Sunday, November 17, 2013

Expectations in Life

Our expectations from other people and their expectations from us are the cause of most emotional upheavals in our lives. All of us expect certain things from certain people and if those expectations keep on meeting then we take them for granted.  But if those expectations are not met then we will always blame the other person; not ourselves.

In Bhagvat Geeta, Krishna tells us to just do our work and deeds (karm) as we are supposed to and not expect anything in result or think about the outcome of those deeds.

Well....this is one of the hardest things to do.

Our whole life is motivated by having goals in life and meeting them. When we fulfill our goals we feel a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to go on further to the next goal. If we don't meet our goals then we feel like a failure and it takes a lot of effort to get up and try again or go on to another goal.

Expectations are fundamental to our being. As soon as you perform an act, there is some expectation of result. It can be as simple as when I am thirsty and I drink water, my thirst should be quenched (that was the goal).  When I go to teach my students, I expect them to learn and do well on their exams.  It is tough for me to accept that there will be no result from my hard work. Even a mother, who is expected to have selfless love for her children, expects them to take care of her in her old age. 

Same goes for all people in our lives. We expect something in return from people because they are sensible and should know that one should always give back if you have received something. We don't even excuse strangers! We expect even strangers to be kind to us because obviously why would they be rude to us? They don't even know us! So if someone does not hold open the door for us after going through it, we think - how rude!

As part of my happiness training I am also learning to let go of this "expectation". It has been hard to do, but I am teaching myself to let go. As time is passing by I am gaining a lot of relief and a general feeling of lightness. There is no weight on me of emotions that used to weigh me down because I am waiting for someone to do something for me.

So how am I doing this -  expecting less from others and meeting other people's expectations?

The first thing I tell myself is everyone is born with their destiny - as am I. So I have to keep doing what I am supposed to do and let the other person do what they do. I cannot control their actions. I have to believe that there is a higher power somewhere keeping an account of all this (as said in Bhagvat Geeta).  There is also an English saying, "what goes around comes around", which most people think happens in this life, but Hindus believe happens over multiple lives (reincarnation).

Doing the "right thing" is not always easy, we make the best decisions given our circumstances, our values and our intelligence. Keeping that thought in mind, I keep doing what my heart tells me to do (and my heart is usually right). I don't have many regrets in life. I am certain I have hurt people during my life but I can only hope they have moved on in their lives.

The harder part is when someone expects something of me and I am not able to fulfill that. I feel bad when I find out that I was supposed to do something and I did not do it.  Most times people don't really tell what they are expecting of me, they think that I should just know.  I am very careful in what I do and how I behave but I am certainly not a mind reader. Being able to fulfill others' expectations is part of what is called emotional quotient. Higher EQ scoring people are more self aware, have more empathy and tend to manage their situations well. All this leads to living a more emotionally fulfilled life. These days it is considered better to have a higher EQ than IQ.

I will have to do more study in Psychology to know if we are born with certain EQ and IQ or it changes over time. From what I have seen in people is that some things never change, but the educator in me says that EQ can be improved by our experiences and by training ourselves to observe more. But then again, many things never change.....

So the part about meeting other people's expectations has to do with high EQ. Higher EQ people will know what to say (or not), when to say and what to do (or not) in a given situation.  That is why a number of the older generation people who never had any formal education, were still "wise" because they knew what to do and when to do it - that was their high emotional quotient. (Click here to take a simple - about 15 questions - quiz to see how you do on your EQ). I will not tell you whether I scored high or not :-)

Sometimes we are just not able to meet other people's expectations because their expectations will never end. Its just one thing after another and another.....At that point I just have to say, "Enough", I am done with this now. I have, in my own ways, found a way to get around these people otherwise they will completely drain me of everything I have.

With self education and patience we can all coexist happily for the short time that we are on earth.

I have not written much about taking people for granted....that will be another blog.