“Expect Nothing; You Will Not Be Disappointed” is a phrase a friend of mine, Jennifer Snow, coined. When I first heard it I thought it was very negative. Recently, I have come to believe that these are some of the wisest words I have ever heard. This phrase expresses how we should not set ourselves up for disappointment, with expectations that may not be met by others. I have thought of this phrase several times recently, as I have felt the need to change some of my expectations.
A few days ago I was driving alone. I was about an hour into my almost seven-hour trip when the low tire pressure light came on. I drove for awhile, not really concerned since my husband had seen the same light recently, and was sure that it was not really a problem. I called my husband to ask him what to do, and he did not answer his phone. At that point I knew that I was alone in this. I became concerned, and decided to stop and put air in the tires. Then I almost panicked when I remembered that I had little cash. But I remembered that I did have some coins, and the tire pressure machine only took quarters. So I put 6 quarters in the machine, and tried to remember how to work the tire gauge. Initially I took air OUT of the first tire instead of putting air in. When I realized what I was doing, I corrected the mistake, but the air machine stopped, and I had only filled one tire partially! I then put more quarters in the machine, and began to fill the other three tires. It wasn’t long before the air machine stopped again. The tires did not seem to be fully inflated. Now, what was I to do? I was totally out of my element. It was then that I started to cry. I felt totally helpless. A man drove up to put gas in his car, and I asked him to help me. Between tears, I explained that I wasn’t sure how to read the tire gauge, or if I was putting air in correctly instead of taking it out. I put my last quarters in the machine, and was glad that my knight in shining amour was checking the tire pressure and filling the tires. In only a few minutes he had put sufficient air in all of the tires and I was back on the road. Between tears, I looked for the lessons in this, and found several.
I had expected someone else, probably subconsciously my husband, to take care of my car, tires and all. Yet, I am the one who drives this car most of the time. My husband travels extensively, so he isn’t easily able to take care of my car. I thought of my friends who are single, who have to take care of these things by themselves. I have apparently (subconsciously) expected others to take care of things I should be able to take care of myself. How smart is that? In this day of equality, should women not know how to do the basics regarding car maintenance? Of course we should. One of my lessons from this low tire pressure problem was to make sure that I can avoid, diagnose, and fix simple car problems. And to never start on a road trip without sufficient cash, including coins. Also, to ask for help when I need it.
The “Expect Nothing, You Will Not Be Disappointed” is truest related to the expectations we have of others. It is foolish to expect others to meet our expectations, yet we continue to do so, and in so doing, we are often disappointed. There are many reasons why others disappoint us. One of the main reasons is that others aren’t as much like us as we allow ourselves to believe. We have different values, experiences, and motivations. Then there is the issue of insecurities, including jealousies and feelings of competition. These insecurities can preclude others from celebrating with us when we are honored with awards, and when we have other major events in our lives.
The best way to deal with the disappointment, hurt feelings, and anger we feel when people fail to meet our expectations is to let go of our expectations of others, and take them as they are. We need to accept that we are only able to control our own behavior, not the behavior of others. We will continue to be disappointed by others if we judge them by our own standards. We need to let go. This includes letting go of not just our expectations of others, but the ability to be hurt by how others treat us. This includes determining whether to continue to have a relationship with those others who take more than they give, and this includes family. We sometimes give others too much emotional control of our relationship with them, and need to change that.
Another lesson. We should be most concerned about our self imposed barriers, and not those created by others. When we fall, we need to get back up. This lesson was reinforced recently by 100 year- old Ella Mae Colbert who shattered the current record in the 100- meter dash for those over 100 years old. When she fell, Ella Mae got back up. Her expectation of herself was that she win that race, and she did.
Our expectations of our self is what we can control, and should.