When I was training to be a school teacher, we were taught to have high expectations. They often showed us evidence of what happened to children if the teacher or parent imposed low expectations - their grades went down.
What the trainers didn’t say, was the effects of stress and anxiety on children as we expected more and more from them.
As I’ve been meditating and studying ancient wisdom over the years, I’ve discover a greater power than high expectations. The Power of Low Expectations.
In fact, nowadays, I like to have zero expectations if I can. Why?
Because if you have no expectations, if something goes well, you’re pleasantly surprised!
If you have high expectations, you set yourself up to fall down, fail and struggle through life.
For example, a couple of weekends ago, you may have spotted my email - I organised ‘The World’s First Pop-up Museum of Happiness’. We were expecting about 200 people to register. Instead, over 7000 people registered within a few days of releasing the tickets.
Was I pleasantly surprised? Definitely!
But although I worked very hard to organise the event with my core team, I was prepared for anything to happen. Perhaps Spitalfields market would close us down...perhaps heavy rain would mean no one would come...maybe our orders wouldn’t come through and all the hype would be for nothing.
This isn’t negative thinking...it’s realistic thinking.
In fact, the opposite happened. Most of the ticket holders did turn and almost everyone had a great time. Not only did adults jump into the ball pool, we had virtual reality meditations on the beach, colouring in, mindful origami, lots of laughter yoga, singing, bollywood dancing, talks on self-compassion and even I managed to give a talk and guided meditation on kindfulness to many people that hadn’t meditated before. That made me very happy!
So having low expectations doesn’t mean things will go wrong. It just means you’re living in line with reality.
The truth is, anything can happen at any time. Death will be upon at some point. No need to scared of the fact - it’s just how it goes!
If you have low expectations, you’re easily content.
Just getting your next meal can put a smile on your face.
A cup of tea is wonderful.
Someone looking you in the eye and speaking to you - brilliant!
The very fact that you wake up and have another day to life and breathe and smile - amazing!
So experiment with lowering your expectations. Be pleased with small things that go well.
Aim high. Expect low.
For example, try lowering your expectations at work. Your colleague doesn’t finish that report...no surprise, you didn’t expect him to. Your boss has a go at you for your work - no sweat, you know that’s what bosses do.
And try lowering expectations at home too. Your wife keeps nagging you - sure, that’s cool, that’s how she rolls. Your husband turns up home late again - no biggie, that’s typical husband behaviour. Kids don’t do their homework - that’s kids for you - tell them off if you need to, and send them back to their room if you must.
But don’t be surprised.
Low expectations doesn’t mean you accept everything, especially things that are dangerous or really harmful to you or others. Of course, you can take action to sort things out. But you’re just not surprised when things go wrong - because that’s life.
Suffering is expecting from life what life can never give you.
Imagine if you had no expectations at all, from others, from yourself, from life. What would happen?! How could you ever be upset?
Diagnosed with an illness - I was expecting that. Close member of family dies - that’s normal. Fired from your job - bound to happen. Tenant doesn’t pay you - welcome to the real world. Landlord kicks you out - typical behaviour.
Try these steps to help lower your expectations of life, and enjoy the ride a bit more:
1. Think of someone or something that upsets you often. Your partner, your job, your children.
2. Consider what your expectations are of the situation. What do you expect, that often isn't met?
3. Lower your expectations. Reduce your standards. Go from wanting perfection, to be okay with what normally happens.
4. Notice what effect your lower expectations has on the situation.
5. If you found your new found attitude made you feel more at peace, consider another area of your life that seems to cause you suffering and once again, lower your expectations!
You may begin to notice, as you become more relaxed with your lower expectations, the situation improves as you’re no longer fighting it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments in our blog
I’m not expecting you to like this post at all! :-)
PS - If you’d like to download our free ebook or register to Teach Mindfulness or Teach Mindfulness at Work in our next cohort (will probably start April 2016), click here.
PPS - If you work in a corporate in UK or Europe and would like the Museum of Happiness to come to your company, connect us with the decision maker and let’s bring the Museum to your company! Click here.