Striking a Balance: Embracing Hope While Managing Expectations

In a week, I’ll spend a day reviewing the past year and setting my intentions for the new year. In looking back over the year, I began it with hopes for the future and expectations on what that future would be like.

My hope was that I would be challenged and be able to meet those challenges. My expectations were that the challenges would look and feel a certain way. I planned accordingly. That kind of planning set me up for unpleasant surprises.

I knew better than to plan on the basis of what I imagined – my expectations, rather than on the basis of what I hoped for. I know the difference, just as we all do. But I ended up doing that anyway, and got hurt in the process.

Hopes are all about what we dream of for ourselves. They don’t directly depend on anyone else, because they are more spiritual in nature: the details can change while the desired spiritual growth remains. I hoped for challenges I could meet and grow as a result, and that’s what I got.

Expectations depend on others being a certain way, and doing what we think they will do. The problem with this is that it’s fantasy, since we can’t ever really know what others will do. I found myself expecting things of others, and ended up setting myself up for disappointment. This isn’t a judgement on others, but a lesson for me, and what I can truly know and work with. For instance, I expected support from one person and no support from another: both of those expectations were unwarranted.

Now I’ll take a look at what I expected and why, so that I have a better chance of avoiding that next time. How can I do things better this next year? How can I see what to do clearly? How can I support myself in realizing my new hopes and dreams?

Once I identify my hopes and expectations, what can I do to support my hopes?

Three things:

  1. Do what I can to support my dreams – do my homework, be realistic, prepare. Then when things go wrong (which they will) I have something to fall back on;
  2. Know what I can truly control, and stick only with that. What I can truly control is me, and how I respond to what happens around and to me. Let go of everything else;
  3. Change my focus to what gives me joy. That will probably mean focusing on what I hope for. It also means noticing any small thing during the day that gives me a nudge of joy. It could be the antics of a puppy, the beauty of a rosebud, the deliciousness of a snack.

These three things will support me this coming year. I have no doubt about that.

I have a hope for you: that you’re able to know what you hope for and that your hopes are manifested, even if expectations get in the way.

Quote of the Week

Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.

– Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings


Lessons on Hope in Challenging Times


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