worlds we can’t live in

I was thinking today about expectations we construct. Expectations of ourselves, of others. I won’t go into too much detail about what prompted me thinking about expectations, but I will say that it was fueled by the revelation that expectations can be poison for some people, especially when those expectations are not fulfilled. Unfulfilled expectations make people get mad and give up.

So when I came across this image on my twitter feed from author and artist Hugh MacLeod, whom I’ve admired for a while, it struck me how our expectations essentially create our world. They construct the basis for success and failure, for satisfaction and disappointment, for good days and bad days. I expect to be able to deadlift 200# no problem, but if for some reason there is a problem and I can’t, I am disappointed — I feel as though I’ve failed. I expect to make it to Harrisburg in about 40 minutes (and so I plan accordingly), and when I run into traffic and end up late, I feel anger. Et cetera. I think I could probably argue that everything, every situation, every interaction and circumstance, if it involves human beings and events, is colored by expectation. But the coolest thing about that is: we get to construct our expectations. We don’t have to knee-jerk our way through life.

Knee-jerking through life means harboring expectations that create worlds we can’t live in:
1) when we have expectations for others’ behaviors that we cannot control, and
2) when we simply expect for crappy shit to happen.

We can’t live in worlds where we want people to act in specific ways. Now, I don’t mean we can’t expect others to follow traffic rules, and I don’t mean that everyone has license to act like total shitheads all the time. I mean, it’s reasonable to expect people to be decent-ish. However, it’s UNreasonable to expect people to conform to what YOU think THEY should be doing. You don’t get to dictate others’ thoughts, choices, and behavior.

Additionally, we can’t live in worlds that we frame with constant pessimism: if you’re looking for people to be rude, for the guy sitting next to you on the bus to cough and sneeze, for the damn sky to fall, they/it totally will. And I don’t mean that in the “you created that negativity with your negative energy.” I simply mean that we generally find what we’re looking for — we see what we are tuned into. And if you’re tuned into being pissed off, you’ll find something to fulfill that for you.

However, we can create worlds that we CAN thrive in: give everyone else the benefit of the doubt. The jerk in front of you on the road — maybe his wife left him this morning and he can’t see the road through his puffy eyes. Or, you can tune out the seemingly-rude comment someone made at the gym this morning and instead focus on the gentle compliment someone else offered. It’s about living generously.

Expect to be grateful. Expect to be surprised. Expect to be thoughtful and considerate — and I mean always thinking and always considering. Create YOUR world so that it’s one you can live in without constant disappointment in others (and in yourself).

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