Image by Georgio

Many of us want to live better lives. We believe it is possible to live a better life. And so we may have an expectation that our lives can or should be better.

This can lead to problems just on its own. Expectations can lead to frustrations. And frustrations that we don’t respond to can lead to disappointment and feeling depressed.

A bigger problem is when increased expectations come with lessened support. In the last few decades the support that people experience from friends and family has declined. This isn’t the fault of individuals – most of us, those with kind families anyway – often want to spend more time with them. And we probably all want to spend more time with the friends we are close to.

The diminished support is to do with the increasing price of housing – young people find it hard to afford houses close to where their family lives, it often requires two incomes to buy – as well as increasing opportunity: there are so many enjoyable activities we could do. If we have children in our lives then there are even more.

No one would want fewer opportunities for good and worthwhile activities. The down-side is that it means we are often isolated – running from one thing to the next, with less time to connect deeply with those we love or even with those who are engaging in the same activity. Walking to the local park for a tai chi class with our neighbours is quite different to driving across the city and doing it with strangers.

All this can mean less support in our lives. When this is mixed with increased expectations, this is a recipe for stress.

And the expectations increase not just in one area of our life but most of them. We are told to be not just to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, but to be fully committed to the mission of the company. While being a caring parent who is giving our children the best possible start in life. While being a loving spouse or partner (and being a good listener as well as an excellent lover). It’s all a bit ridiculous.

What to do?

To Lessen Expectations:

1. Scrutinising expectations with your values.  If you care about spending loving time with your loved one or friend, then maybe some expectations (and some activities) have to go. If you wish to get better at playing your instrument or sport, your expectations about building a business empire may need to be adjusted to a slower pace.
2. Finding the desire.
It may be that your expectation is a way to something else. You may believe you will be happy when you achieve a particular goal (that car, that job, marriage to that person). Consider whether you can achieve the goal in another way. (E.g. How could I be happy now?

For More Support
1. In my experience relationships take time.
Including time spent just hanging out with each other. Simple but not easy. More support in our lives means prioritising time with others, and perhaps sacrificing other activities.

2. Inviting others into our lives.
This takes some work to start doing. But it needn’t be too hard. A couple I know each Boxing Day have a ‘Christmas Recovery’ day where people can drop around, chat, play games, whatever. Some friends of mine, no longer in touch with their families, organise a family-free Christmas get together. Then there ways of getting more support that require a bit more organisation: mothers with young children getting together so that, for a couple of hours anyway, the baby-sitting is shared.

Change can be a stressful business. I don’t think increasing the stress is usually the best way to help us change.

We often need more support in our day to day lives. Changing may require extra energy and more support.

Change fuelled by high expectations can lead to more stress. If it is changing in a relationship it may lead to less support as well: other people may not understand what we are doing, or even may not want us to do it. (They may be living a stressful life too – and our changing may be seen as just more stress).

Change may involve very high expectations – that we can leave an abusive relationship, or that we can give up an addiction. This may well be an important part of desirable change. It will also be important, with big changes like this, to break them into manageable chunks. For instance, to get by without our drug of choice ‘one day at a time’. In my experience change happens most easily if our expectations are small (preferably manageable and measurable). So that we are on a path of small successes, feeling a little better every day. If we think, “Sure, I can do that”, then it is more likely we will do it.

If we can add this support of loved ones for the changes we want to make, and their support along the way as well then change is likely to happen easily.

Put this in a formula:

Low, Realistic Expectations + Lots of Support = Rapid and Pleasurable Change.

Let me know in the comments, what you think has helped you change. You may have found that a big expectation has helped with motivation or getting out of a rut. Perhaps the ‘support’ you received was not helpful. Let me know your experiences with expectations, support and change.

If you liked this post you might also like,
Intention and Performance
How to Respond to Frustration
Using Anger to Change

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8 Comments to “Increased Expectations + Less Support = Insanity”

  1. Support works very well for me. Surprisingly I exchange support with my online friends. Especially guys like you who obviously value authenticity so much. There is a certain trust there and the mutual support in blogging helps a lot.

  2. Cesar Moves says:

    I can relate to this ! , I’ve heard some goody things about this blog ! I bookmarked it on my favorites and will visit it again for more interesting posts like this one, Thanks

  3. Evan says:

    Hi Tom,

    A lot of my support comes from on line too. Almost all of the support for my blogging comes from on line – people like you. For which I am very grateful.

    thanks for your comment.

  4. Evan says:

    Thanks for commenting CM,

    Hope to see you again soon.

  5. Lindsay says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful post, Evan.

    I think a lot of the “insanity” comes from the feeling of entitlement so many of us have these days. Maybe it’s okay to have high expectations if you also expect to work your butt off to achieve them. A lot of people, especially here in the U.S., seem to think a good life is their birthright, instead of something to be earned.

    If we’re grateful for the freedom and opportunities we do have, and we’re willing to accept that our expectations are limited by what we’re willing to do to achieve them, then maybe we’ve got a shot at peace of mind. 🙂

  6. Evan says:

    Hi Lindsay,

    Peace of mind sounds good to me.

    Thanks for your comment.

  7. Excellent content and style…keep up the good work!

  8. Evan says:

    Thanks for you comment SM

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