How to get out of the expectations vs. reality trap

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Shutterstock.com/ Aleksandr Davydov

Countless people live by the philosophy of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. However, sometimes we do allow our expectations of a given situation to head ahead of us. Although we would like to see things turn out a certain way, it isn’t wise to expect it as this leads to disappointment in many cases. This is especially true if one expects something very opposes to the actual reality. Thus, people become frustrated once they are faced with a reality that they don’t deem quite favorable. This realization can make matters ten times more discouraging in any instance.

Millions of people sign on to social media accounts daily to see other people living their lives. Oftentimes, people compare their lifestyle to others and can develop envy. They see how happy others look in their pictures and believe that they will be happy too once they acquire the same things. However, some of the happiest people also happen to be some of the poorest people. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop people from trying to pursue their happiness through the accumulation of materialistic things. Some people believe that if they take a higher paying job, they will be happier because they will have more disposable income to treat themselves with. In contrast, the reality is oftentimes that they must work more hours and have less time to spend on themselves or with their loved ones.

Another scenario is the expectation that you will receive attention from looking a certain way. Thus, you work out, lose weight, and change your appearance only to find that you aren’t getting any different treatment because you may still have issues of insecurity. Looking out at others, you learn that not everything is what it seems. Who’s to say that the people you see smiling on social media are actually happy in real life?

The general dream of society is to have a perfect family, a white picket fence, and easy life. Sometimes we try to build these expectations with the people in our reality and become disappointed when it doesn’t work out. This isn’t to say that you can’t have the life you always dreamed of. You certainly can. However, you must be realistic with your expectations and plans for making it happen.

Reality is changeable. To change your reality effectively, you must understand and accept your current reality. Once you accept your reality, you can better devise a plan to create a new one. Here are some ways to avoid setting unrealistic expectations and prevent feelings of discouragement if expectations are not met:

  • Don’t compare your life to others
  • Don’t base your happiness on the things that make others happy
  • Create a gratitude journal. Practice being grateful for your reality even if things don’t work out as expected. You may find that you gained something valuable that you might’ve otherwise overlooked
  • Ask yourself what you expect to happen before setting expectations
  • Ask yourself where your expectation originate from and if they are realistic
  • Build awareness of your current reality
  • Take time to see how you’d feel hypothetically if you were to receive what you are expecting. Would you feel happy? How long do you think it might last?