I learned several valuable lessons about expectations while walking my first Camino de Santiago, The Camino Frances. The lessons drilled into me were about the damage expectations can do. I’d already seen what expectations had done to me in my life and it wasn’t a pretty picture. Observing others, especially on the Camino, “shoulding” through the day was even more poignant. “Shoulding” is one expression of expectations.
Here are some things I witnessed hurt by expectations: friendships, Camino experiences, and health. All of those could have been avoided by dropping expectations.
What sense does it make to expect the weather to be other than it is? For that matter, what sense does it make to expect much of anything to be different than it is? Let me quickly say that I firmly believe in the sentiment of the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”. Take charge of what you can and leave the rest.
When you expect things to be different than they are and place expectations on things you don’t have control over, you are messing with joy. You know the popular definition of insanity, don’t you? Repeating the same action expecting different results. Trying to change things you don’t have control over fits into that definition.
So, the big lesson I got on the Camino was to drop expectations to preserve my sanity, peace, and friendships. My mantra for that was “Expectations Kill”.
Two antidotes to expectations are to speak your truth and to plan. When you speak your truth and ask for what you want, people don’t have to read your mind. There’s better clarity for you and the other person when you share your needs and wants. You have control of expressing yourself to others so you can avoid expecting them to read your mind.
We’re all different with different experiences and abilities that we bring to relationships. Bridge that chasm between you with your truth, and then deal with the result. You keep fine-tuning that communication until you either have what you want — or accept that it’s not going to happen.
What’s the best way to deal with those things you don’t have control over, like the weather and other people’s thoughts and actions? Plan and train. Run scenarios in your mind for how to handle different situations. Sometimes that results in you learning new skills, or gathering additional gear or supplies.
On the Camino, scenarios I ran so that I’d be prepared included what to do about blisters, dealing with weather conditions ranging from cold and snowy to hot and dry, and getting clustered in my walking group with a loud, obnoxious pilgrim.
In the blister department, I treated other pilgrims’ blisters with my supplies. I was prepared with layers of diverse clothes to help me handle all weather possibilities — which I did experience. And I was blessed to not experience any loud, obnoxious pilgrims, though I was ready.
A sense of humor helps you deal with others’ expectations placed on you. That happens too. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Others’ expectations on you are their problem, thus are the small stuff.
Dropping expectations will keep you happy and healthy. What more could you ask for?