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Why Is Life Painful At Times: Understanding Agreements Versus Expectations

In this article I will share with you the difference between establishing agreements and assuming that your expectations will be met. Both are systems about how we interact with others. One is more effective in the other in terms of efficiency, productivity, and clear communications.

We grow up in a world of expectations. Our parents expect us to behave when we are younger. Our spouses expect us to support them at any moment. Our boss expects us to perform well under all circumstances at all times. These are all expectations. Many of us carry silent unconscious expectations of each other our whole lives. We live and act a certain way and then we disappoint others because others have silent unspoken expectations of us. We see them get frustrated or angry with us so what do we do? We shut down or we fight and react back. We stop doing a certain behavior because we don’t want to upset or disappoint the other. This type of behavior pattern has its roots in childhood. The parent automatically assumes the child or baby knows how to act a certain way and when the child doesn’t the parent gets upset and frustrated causing the child to shut down, get angry, or both. Expectations kill us. They kill relationships in business, romance, and friendships.

Expectations means that we are assuming something about another person’s behavior in relation to us. For instance, a child joins a baseball team for the first time. The child may think it’s all about having fun. However, little does the child know that the coach just wants to win. And we’ll do whatever it takes. The child, under the impression of wanting to have fun, will be disappointed and saddened when the coach starts yelling at him and asks why he isn’t focused or taking anything seriously. The coach expects that the child only “plays to win,” like him. The child is simply just enjoying the game and has no assumptions or expectations. When their two worlds meet everything blows up fast.

This is the danger surrounding expectations. They aren’t communicated upfront. People feel hurt because they don’t feel listened to. In the example above the child just thinks, “It’s all about fun. He is expecting to have fun and he expects everyone else to have fun.” However, the coach expects something else from his athletes.

Now, how do we create a system that works repeatedly for clear communication and understanding? You make an agreement with someone. You put aside all assumptions and you ask the other individual what he or she expects from you and then you ask them to do the same for yourself. You communicate. You lay everything out on the table. You say, “Here’s what I expect if we’re going to work or play together. Can you agree to that?” And then they say what they expect and you either come to an agreement about what each other person expects of one another or you don’t work or play together.

What does this system do?

It alleviates any worry, stress, or uncertainty about whether people will be hurt, upset, or confused. Most pains in the world can be avoided it’s just that we don’t go about it the easy way. We think things must be difficult. But many of the times we think this because we have expecting and making assumptions about other people. When we form agreements we ensure that both parties are clear about what will happen and how something will transpire.

Now many people first respond to this by saying, “But won’t that suck the creativity and joy out of life. Shouldn’t it all be spontaneous?” No, life can still be spontaneous within structure. It can still be full of zest within structure. We always need a mix of both. A bit of structure and a bit of creativity and your life will go a far way. Simply put, the way we experience life is through our patterns. They may not look like structures but you have structures of behavior that determine the quality of your life. So choose wisely which structures of behavior you will adhere to.

Love Jared

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