Expectations of change lead to disappointment – End of the Day for May 8, 2014

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Expectations of change can lead to much of the unhappiness we face in our lives. Once we convince ourselves of something we expect others to follow along. Its obvious, right? Unfortunately, our expectations of others — and even ourselves — often go unfulfilled. We might WANT to do something, but getting it done is an entirely different matter. If we can disappoint our own expectations so easily, imagine how easy it is to be disappointed in our expectations of others. We want them to behave in certain ways — they might even say they want to change themselves — but it is too, too easy to fall back on our habits, our comfortable, if boring, normal instead of reaching for the change that both ourselves and others know that we need.

When people agree to change, promise to change, promise to do anything, our first inclination is to believe them. They seem earnest and truthful, but unfortunately change has nothing to with the intellectual understanding of the need for change. Instead, change is an emotional issue and fraught with all the complications, fear and anger that can reside in any emotional topic. At the heart of it all, is the fight within ourselves when we want to change or are asked to change by others. Intellectually we may know it is a good idea to change, but emotionally our fear prevents us from making that change. We are held back by our the baggage of our entire lives, everything that has ever been taught to us by others, both individuals and society as a whole. It is so hard to reach out for the next ledge when you have to let go of the ledge your are supposedly safe upon.

Winter leaves in Southern California #leaves #winter #tree

Changing leaves

Of course, without change, though, we stagnate, we stall in all areas of our lives. We retreat to the same old, same old, same old stuff. Sure, it might the familiar, it might be comfortable, it might feel safe, but it is also devoid of growth or progress. We fall into days of simply repeating what we have always done, over and over and retreating deeper and deeper into the unchanging past. It is this very comfort that can be so dangerous. When we are comfortable, we stop learning. We stop reaching out. We stop being curious or innovative or, in the worst cases, fun. 

I know for myself, I am not ready to fall into a comfortable retirement of any sort, be it professional, intellectual or emotional. I am always looking for new ways to enjoy life, expand my impact on others and ways of making the world a better place to live for everyone. Yes, I have my moments of fear of change, but I fight through them and often have to drag others along with me. Of course, my expectations for myself are never the same as the expectations of those around me. They don’t want to change, or at least not change in the same ways. They have found their stasis, their center point and given enough comfort might just stay their for the rest of their lives. Like people who stop listening to new music at some point in their lives — refusing to believe that anything good was created after 1977, for example, — people can freeze their entire lives in the same way. They never progress beyond some defined moment in their life. 

Worse than people who can’t change, though, are those who think they don’t NEED to change. They think they can happily freeze their lives at this point, but they neglect to understand that those around them will most likely still actively be engaged in change. The conflict grows when our expectations of continued change are not met in others. We can’t understand it. We see it as stubbornness, selfishness or just plain meanness when our expectations of change aren’t met. Even worse, since these people think they don’t NEED to change, there is no way you will ever convince them to do so. To them, their lives are perfect just the way they are. In fact, they might be perfect for them, but not for those around them.

This is crisis point in many lives, relationships and careers. If you recognize that you need to continue to change, are an actively involved in changing every day, you may need to leave others behind to their static lives. Sure you can try to help them change —  cajole and weedle, use carrots and sticks — but there will come a time when you can only continue on your own way and leave them behind. There is little you can do when people fail to meet your expectations of change and you are foolish to continue to expect that change. Give people a chance, of course. They may change a little, but typically they feign change for 1 day, 1 moment, 1 event and then retreat back into their normal behaviors. See this enough times and it should become very clear where you stand with this person. Move on. Thank them graciously for the good times — and move on. To continue to expect them to change and be constantly disappointed by their inability to change is your failure, not theirs. They have chosen their path, now you need to choose yours.  Don’t let your expectations disappoint you any longer. Move on!

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