I’m sure you’ve seen those expectation vs. reality memes out there, and I’m not gonna lie… they’re pretty funny.
The truth is, reality doesn’t always meet your expectations.
You might have expectations to workout 5 days a week, and in reality you’re probably going to miss some days.
You might have expectations for your significant other to know exactly what you need to hear in a moment of difficulty. It’s probably not always going to happen that way.
These expectations can come from:
What happens when reality does not match your expectations?
Maybe you’re hard on yourself when you miss a workout you planned to complete and you lose motivation as a result… you messed up your streak, so why bother continuing?
Or what happened that time your partner didn’t ask you how your day was and know that you were irritated? You lashed out on them and it turned into a big fight. When in reality you were expecting them to do something nobody can do… read your mind.
Suffering Is The Gap Between Expectation And Reality
The larger the gap between your expectations and the reality of the situation, the more you will suffer. Especially if you are resisting reality and badly want things to be different.
Everybody has expectations, and that’s not a bad thing. The problem occurs when it starts to negatively impact your mood because you are not flexible when things don’t meet your expectations.
Because let’s face it, regardless of whether you like it or not… reality is going to happen.
You have two choices:
- Complain that reality does not match your expectations -> feel crappy, frustrated, and unfulfilled.
- Accept the reality of the situation. Accept that it’s okay when your expectations aren’t met, nothing is perfect -> feel calm, accepting, and neutral.
How To Deal When Your Expectations Don’t Match Reality
So how can you cope when your expectations to eat out at restaurants, spend time with friends in person, and enjoy a nice summer vacation may not be the reality at this moment?
Here are my top 3 tips:
- Cross-check your expectations with reality and the facts:
- How likely is it that your expectation will happen?
- Are you making assumptions, engaging in wishful thinking, or denying the reality of how things are?
- Adjust your expectations:
- Approach situations with an open mind- not coming from your ego and how you think things should be.
- Be flexible and willing to go with the flow. Mental rigidity (not being open to change or thinking there is only one “right” way to do things) inhibits growth and positive change.
- Accept the reality of the situation and let go of past expectations. Acknowledge and/or communicate your emotions (disappointment, etc.), but only as a learning tool for next time- not as a way to punish yourself or others. That punishment only pours salt onto a wound that cannot be changed.
- Practice compassion towards yourself and others:
- Most of the time, you and other people have good intentions. Everybody makes mistakes or doesn’t follow through with things. It’s part of being human- choose to forgive, or (if it has gotten to be too much for your liking) choose to move on from the relationship, job, etc…
- Practice self-compassion when it comes to your expectations not meeting reality, especially with the global pandemic. It’s okay to want things to be “normal” again, it’s absolutely not wrong to feel that way. Acknowledge your emotions of loss, loneliness, disappointment, etc. and focus on what you do have in the present.
I hope these tips were helpful. Let me know in the comments if you have any additional tips for coping (or memes!) when expectations and reality just don’t match up.