Manage Your Expectations | Thrive as a Single Part 1

Expectations: We All Have Them

We all have expectations about what single life should be, what married life will be, and what life, in general, should be. Some of these are reasonable. Others are unreasonable. Some are good and healthy. Others are slowly suffocating our psyche.

Perhaps the most unreasonable expectation of all is that all our expectations will be reasonable. We all mess up from time to time.

Whose Expectations?

Where do our expectations come from? Are they truly our own, or someone else’s?


For the first few years of our life, profoundly formative years, no one has more influence on us than our family – so, choose yours carefully. Okay, you don’t actually have any control over that. We can only hope that they don’t do too much damage before we develop enough understanding to critically examine what they teach us.

Seriously, think about it. How does what they expect of you, influence what you expect of yourself and others? Do they expect too much? Too little? Do they always expect the worst? Or, do they expect perfection?

Family is always a mixed bag. Plan on having to do at least some remedial work as you grow as a person and gain a better perspective on things.


Some expectations are taught to us by society. It seems that everything I read, listen to, or watch is pushing some agenda, some lifestyle, or some ideology. As you consume any media of any type, it will subtly affect your thinking. There is a cumulative effect and it will affect what you expect from life, yourself, and relationships.

However, unlike our family, we do have a lot of control over what we see and hear. If we have unrealistic expectations, it is probably due in large part to what we allow into our ear gates and eye gates. To paraphrase Zig Ziglar – you can change your expectations by changing what goes into your mind. When it comes to your eyes and ears, learn to be a better gate keeper.


Another source of our expectations are the people we work with, hang out with, and otherwise spend significant time with. Like culture and unlike family, this is another place we have a lot of control. Exercise that control. Spend as much time as possible with people who help you get your mind right and as little time as possible with people who warp your thinking.

Our Self

Some expectations come from our own thinking – kind of. To a large extent, I believe that we absorb them from society, our family, and our peers. Conditioned by what we see and hear from the aforementioned sources, we gradually accept the world view and expectations of other people or institutions as our own.

So, be careful little eyes what you see. Be careful little ears what you hear. The only way to trust our own expectations is to make sure we feed our brain a steady stream of good stuff and spend time around people who influence us for good.

Life Experience

Sometimes our unrealistic expectations do come directly from within us and are totally our own. They are forged by our life experience. Whether our life so far has been good or bad, we tend to think the future will be more of the same.

Because we tend to retain things for which we have first-hand knowledge better than things we hear about, things we learn through experience can lead to the hardest patterns of all to break free of. The most insidious thing is that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We expect a bad outcome, so we don’t bother to give our best effort. That, of course, leads to a bad outcome and fulfills our doom and gloom prophecy.

It takes major brain reprogramming to overcome that pattern. It may take changing your viewing and listening habits, spending less time with some people and more time with others, positive affirmations, or other life changes, but diligence pays dividends. You can realistically expect it to take some time and to have a few setbacks along the way, but you can also expect to look back and see your growth over time

Realistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment. So, don’t set yourself up for frustration by entertaining fantasies. You need realistic expectations of yourself, those around you, and your life as a single person. In all these areas, strive to develop expectations that are reasonable and truly your own.

But, what are realistic expectations and how do you develop them?

More about that next week in Manage Your Expectations Part 2.

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