Disappointment, it sucks!! Whose fault is it? How would you feel if I said it was your own fault. Every time. Does that suck too? Does it ring true? Does it sit somewhere in the middle?
If I could I would strike the word “should” from the English language. How often does the word “should” make you feel good? It can be used nicely, as in, “Wow, you look awesome in that dress, you should wear it more often.” But most of the times I remember it in my life it’s because someone (might be me or might be someone else) has expectations. “You should have booked”, “You should have told me you’d be late”, “Children should put toys away before they start playing with different ones”, “I should have got up earlier”, “I should have exercised more this week”. The list goes on and on.
I had this conversation with my 10 year old daughter at a local cafe when we had to wait for a table. “You should have booked Mummy”, she said. This was said as the waitress was clearing our soon to be table. We’d waited 10 maybe 15 minutes, hardly a life changing delay. “What does it matter that we’ve waited for our table?” I said. “Have we missed out on eating? Is there now a table available for us?” Her reply? “Well, no we haven’t and yes there is.” “How do you think it makes me feel when you tell me I should have done something? Even though we’re still going to sit together at a table and eat together, there’s just been a little wait.” I questioned. “Not good I suppose” she said. Then we sat down and had a lovely brunch.
Expecting to be seated straight away had led my daughter to be disappointed that we had to wait. A big disappointment? No. But the process is the same regardless of the magnitude.
I’m very sensitive to the use of language, the difference between should and could, to me, is huge!! I’d like to see more people swapping could in the place of should. Should implies expectations, could implies choice. Must vs can. Same same. Expectations vs choice. Need vs love. Same again. This is one I recently really noticed myself. I love yoga, it lifts me up, lights me up, calms me down, energises me, soothes me, heals me. But once I told myself I needed to do yoga every day I stopped doing it. Why? There was no choice, even though it’s something I love, once I was told I needed to do it (even though it was me telling me!) I didn’t make the time to do it anymore. I realised this and wrote on my whiteboard, “I love doing yoga every day”. This has such a different feel for me. It’s a choice, it’s a treat, I want to do things I love, not things I need.
There are, of course, certain expectations that are reasonable. We expect the sun to rise every day and set every day. We expect to be loved by our family. We expect Tuesday to be followed by Wednesday. We expect to be treated as we would treat others. Ooh, hold on, now we’re getting into disappointment territory. In an ideal world it is a reasonable expectation, however, not everyone has this expectation. If we choose to treat others as we wish to be treated then we can never be disappointed by our own behaviour. In time, we can choose not to have expectations of others. Or perhaps, choose to spend less time with those people who don’t light us up. Or make sure when we know we’re going to spend time with these people that we go in with our love bucket full to the brim. Choose to respond rather than react, be the cause of your own behaviour not the effect of someone else’s.
Flexibility is key when preventing disappointment. Flexibility and gratitude. When you’re grateful for what has happened it greatly reduces the chance of being disappointed about what hasn’t happened.
Is all of this stuff simple? Yep!! Is it always easy to do? Absolutely not, especially with people you have an emotional charge with. (Believe me I know!). But can we make it easier? Hell yes!! Gratitude and flexibility can be practised in teeny tiny ways and in massive ways. Starting with the teeny tiny ways will result in those ways being easy. Then the medium ways will be a bit easier. And so on and so on. Perhaps start with dropping some of the expectations you have on yourself, I’d say that results in a win-win situation.
Imagine if all the people in the world dropped just one expectation from their life, how’s them ripples!?!