Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I was at a dinner party the other night, and I overheard a woman say this:

"Expectations are premeditated disappointment."

I asked her to elaborate, because I wasn't sure I agreed.

Her point was this: you should have standards for others (i.e. they treat you with respect) and goals for yourself (i.e. she wants to become a CEO of a non-profit someday), but not the expectation that you can rely on anyone but yourself.

If you expect your boyfriend to throw you a big surprise party for your birthday and instead he takes you to a quiet dinner, you will be disappointed. If you expect to be promoted through the ranks at your job, you may not only end up being overlooked for promotions, you may miss out on other opportunities. You have to take the reins and take charge of your own destiny: throw your own parties, make your own path in life.

I decided that I agreed with her, but several of my friends had different opinions.

One of my friends said it's impossible for her to distinguish between expectations and wants. "I want, no I EXPECT my fiance to throw me a damn surprise birthday party at least once before we have kids!" she insisted. We laughed.

Another woman said that while she never expects things from others - for example, that they abide by the Golden Rule - it's important to realize that there's a reason that truisms become cliche: they're often valid. You can't expect your own positive (or negative) energy to be reflected back to you, but in most cases, it will.

My friend Annie was the main voice of dissent: "Life is all about expectations!" she said. "I have them about everybody, everything, every new person I meet or every day at work. Yes I'm disappointed, all the time, in lots of ways, but to me dealing with disappointment is life, that's what makes it real, not like a movie or fairy tale. And every once in awhile something unexpected happens, something better than I expected, and I love those moments the best."

What do you think, Internets? Are expectations premeditated disappointment? How can there be so many ways to see the glass half full?


Anonymous said...

I hope for the best, plan for (sometimes expect?) the worst.

If you are going to have expectations, I think you need to make them clear ahead of time.

Hillary said...

I agree with Annie! Not having expectations so you can avoid disappointment seems sort of robotic. I don't mean to sound judgmental. I fully admit that my extreme ups-and-downs way of living is exhausting and some people may feel like avoiding ups-and-downs is the better path to take. I don't know. It's an interesting concept. I just don't agree.

Kim said...

Expectations can cut both ways really. They're not uniquely positive or negative things. They just exist, whether we want them to or not. I think it's impossible for us not to have expectations.

angelasw said...

I agree that expectations go both ways. I can't remember what, but at least one world religion preaches limiting expectations because they lead to unhappiness and disappointment and can make us live in the hypothetical future rather than the present. This makes us disappointed in the future when it doesn't pan out and the past when we realize we wasted it waiting on a future that may or may not happen.