Expectations vs Plans – Why the difference matters

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Let’s say you’re planning to get together with friends on the weekend to have a picnic. As a plan, you set aside the time, maybe gather up some food, and are looking forward to having fun.

But your plans are disrupted. Maybe it’s because of the weather or a friend gets sick. Now you’re feeling disappointed, but you get over it and realize you can reschedule. It’s not a big deal.

But if you are expecting to see your friends and have fun that day, it can make you feel more than just a little disappointed. You might feel frustrated, even angry. The resentment lingers and may even affect the rest of your day.

Here’s a different scenario. Imagine that your partner is going to take out the garbage before the truck picks it up. You are planning that they will be the one to take care of it. But your partner forgets and the garbage truck comes and goes. You’re a little frustrated that you will have more garbage piling up for the week, but you know that we all forget things sometimes. You take a breath and tell them it’s not a big deal.

But if you were expecting your partner to take out the garbage and they forgot, you may feel a much stronger sense of frustration and maybe even anger. “How could they forget? They are so irresponsible!” Your negative feelings towards your partner may impact how you treat them for the next few hours.

“Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” – Macklemore

Having a plan can be important and helpful. But when we have an unrealistic or unspoken expectation, we can end up triggering out threat response and have a very strong negative reaction.

Check in with yourself. Does this week include plans or expectations?

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