Saturday, October 19, 2013

greater expectations

Let's face it.

We all have expectations.  We need them in particular to feel happy, secure, and loved, among other things.

At work, we expect our colleagues to appreciate our presence and our efforts, our bosses to offer us salary increases and constructive feedback.  We expect to have challenging projects to work on, to have opportunities for our professional development.

In our personal relationships, we expect our parents to approve of the decisions that we make.  We expect our spouse or partner to acknowledge our presence, to care about our feelings, to respect our opinions.  We expect our closest friends to relate to us, to be there for us in difficult times, to reach out to us when they need support.

Regarding the society at large, we expect our elected officials to make decisions that reflect our best interests and those of the community.  We expect our celebrities to be role models, to support charitable causes.  We expect our favorite athletes to demonstrate a will to win when participating at sporting events.

And the list goes on.

And let's not even get started on the expectations that others have of us.

Surely, some or all of these expectations are inevitable for our lives to function properly.  For one thing, we are social beings.  We cannot do everything ourselves and in order to survive, we have to trust others on matters that we do not have the skills or the willingness to handle.  Besides, expectations seem to be at the very core of society.  That is, society being a group of people acting in orderly and predictable ways for the sake of social comfort.

But what if we as individuals living in this society placed a lesser value on what we expected from it, and a greater value on what we expected from ourselves?

One benefit of such a shift in our expectations is that we are more emotionally secure.  Each one of us follows normally what makes sense to him or her and to him or her alone, and, because of this, we cannot confer to others the primary responsibility of fulfilling the emotional needs that we crave the most.  Neither can we afford to fault others for not providing for us, since they are just like us with needs of their own.  By expecting more from ourselves, we commit more of ourselves to doing things that satisfy our deepest desires and that depend largely on no one but ourselves.  Through this commitment, we become inseparable from the emotional security that we seek; this security becomes thus a natural and essential part of who we are.

A more important benefit is that we are more in control of our lives.  As we expect more from ourselves, we move deeper within ourselves, to a place that is accessible to only us.  From that point, we discover what we need, how to keep it when we have it, and how to provide it when it is lacking.  Ultimately, what is essential in our lives will be in our own hands.  Liberating indeed, yet it could seem like a daunting challenge.  But as we make gains in self-esteem and in self-confidence as a result of meeting the expectations that we set for ourselves, we become more capable of taking that challenge.  We might even relish it.

So expect things from others, but expect greater from yourself.  It may require more effort than what you are used to.  But you have an energy that is always available to you.  It is the same energy that you are using to understand the words that you are reading.  Why not invest this natural resource in something that rewards you with more control of your life?

Without exception, I expect things from other people.  This expectation manifests itself more in the subsequent resentment that I feel when I do not get what I need than in the upfront demand that I could make for what I need.  Well, I do not want the resentment anymore and I do not want to require that others give me what I need.  That is why I will always expect greater from myself.

Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

– Mahatma Gandhi

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