Handling Expectations

I've started to internalize the importance of controlling my expectations.

Why? Because expectations control our lives. They cause anxiety, disappointment and negativity.

Often, we don't choose our expectations. It's easy to get conditioned by society; expectations are easy to acquire but difficult to control.

Instagram gives us expectations that our lives should be filled with nice beaches, expensive food and fireworks.

Schools are also a great example. We condition students (and convince them) to spend hours studying for tests, staying up until silly o'clock so they can get a 96%. Were the students naturally born with this expectation of high grades? Probably not. We're a product of our environments; hyper-competition and stress breeds these expectations.

Expectations often cause unhappiness. They make us feel guilty, annoyed and stupid. They seep into every aspect of our lives.

If we CAN control our expectations, we CAN control our lives.

Almost everything you think you should do came from another source. The thoughts in your head aren't your own, neither are your goals.

👉How expectations affect our every day lives

There are three main types of expectations that slap me (and you) in the face.


Surprises = something different than your expectation. (I know what you're thinking; Isabella, surprises can be fun! Birthday parties, proposals, gifts all make for joyous experiences. And you're not wrong, they can be good.)

Surprises can also be bad:

Complaining = a situation that surprises you in a negative way; it's so negative that you feel the need to express "anger". For example, I was talking to someone a few weeks back, and they had such negative vibes. They were rude, offensive and unkind; I felt angry by what they were saying so I complained about this person to my trusted friend. My expectation was the person would be kind and trust-worthy, but that wasn't the case.

Disappointment = something doesn't have the result you expected. For example I was disappointed when I tried asking someone for something, and they said no.

Our material desires (cars, houses, watches, etc.) are expectations. Our reactions to situations (i.e., feeling angry while we're in deep traffic) are a result of the delta between what you thought would happen vs what did.


Expectation of identity = we feel we have a certain "essence" that we must stay true to. A personal expectation of how we should behave\act.

This can be helpful (i.e., could give you purpose) but it also has negative implications. For example I really enjoy being helpful, this forces me to make a ton of commitments\do a bunch of favors. Sometimes, these tasks really don't align with my goals, but since I value helpfulness I constantly feel obligated to follow through with my commitments because saying no is the hardest thing in the world. I can't negotiate contracts without having a mini panic attack, I don't voice my opinion directly or do what I really want because I don't want to lose my "identity" or "reputation".

Identity is how we expect ourselves to act (and how others observe ourselves); which, again, boils down to expectation.

We each put so many limiting factors upon ourselves. It's crazy.

Work \ Motivation

Burnout = caused by the expectation that you can handle a lot of things, but you really can't.

Imposter Syndrome = not feeling like you can live up to everyones' expectations. I feel this one a lot: because I've had some media appearances\attention, expectations for my success seem insanely high, and sometimes I doubt my abilities to achieve it.

Instant gratification = the expectation of a reward after you do something (and if you don't get some "reward" you might feel like a failure or you might lose mommentum).

Having a low-risk tolerance = the classic fear of failure: you don't want to not meet the expectations (for whatever you're pursuing), so you mitigate risk.

Not being open-minded = the expectation that your ideas are always right (ego plays a role here too).

Dependance on other people = you expect everyone will do their part. (OK, this is another one that can go both ways. The positive is delegating tasks, and working well in teams.) This can be harmful when you have too much dependance on other people such that you lose some independence. The expectation that when you're in trouble, someone will help you out; when you're lost, there will be direction; when you're unmotivated, someone will motivate you.

This type of expectation makes loneliness feel 10X worse.

For example a few weeks back someone I knew committed suicide. It was shocking, and I didn't really know how to deal with my thoughts. I felt sad, and wanted the people around me to make me feel better, but it certainly wasn't the place or time to give Isabella warm and fuzzy remarks. I felt more lonely than ever those few moments because I expected other people to know what to do, but no one did.

If there's one thing we're great at it's letting expectations control our lives. Often in negative ways.

Why were we never taught to handle expectations?

If this is the thing that runs my life, how come I have no idea how to tame it?

Expectations can:

... this list goes deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Controlling expectations has 5 main implications:

Curing unhappiness in moments + things

TLDR: you stop letting dumb things eat you alive.


TLDR: create your own drive when it comes to what you want to do (don't correlate your expectations\drivers with other people; create your own metrics, have your own desires).

Note: there's definitely going to be some overlap with other people; they'll still motivate you to some extent. But, by identifying your expectations you'll be able to optimize your motivation.

Character Development

Skill Development

This is similar to character, just a slightly different focus. There are 2 main roadblocks:

TLDR (character + skill development): expectations make you close-minded; you need to have a growth mindset to develop something. You should only expect: feedback, not being good at the thing (to begin with) and that results won't come right away.

Social + Communication

TLDR: it's easy to forget that people are different, and they might not understand you; so, communicate accordingly. Also, be aware of the (social) expectations surrounding you.

I could write these lists for days.

I created a mental model to understand any implication because everyone has different expectations\experiences with expectations.

Here's what I do when a "negative" situation occurs. 👇

Now, with an example situation:

If we think about our day-to-day lives, it's easy to actively train expectations that make us feel bad.

Think about hyper-competitive schools, social media\advertising, and having all the people around you constantly complain.

There's different ways to go about training your expectations, but the first step is always realizing they need to be changed. If you expect they're already perfect, they're never going to change.