Emotional wellness and health, much like physical health, is an ongoing and dynamic process, rather than a destination that you get to. You have to work at being emotionally healthy, much like you have to exercise and eat right to help stay physically healthy. There are several different techniques and strategies that can be used to help ensure emotional well-being, and working at it, can help to keep you emotionally healthy.
One such thing strategy to use is to manage your expectations in a more realistic and helpful way. Expectations are the often unconscious and very rarely thought about beliefs about what should, ought, or needs to happen. Often times it’s a belief that if I do X then Y should happen, and if it does not, then the world is an awful and unfair place.
The first thing you should do is spend some time understanding your expectations. As they are often unconscious, this may take some effort to discover them. One clue is if you have a strong reaction after an event that was supposed to go one way and did not, then you likely have an expectation about it. Take the time to think about why you had that reaction, and what were you really hoping was going to happen. That will tell you a lot about what you expect.
An example of expectations is if someone is always critical of you, whether you do something amazing or awful. Yet every time you keep doing your absolute best but still end up feeling dejected. This tells you that their approval of you is important and your expectation of acting the right way with them will give you the expected reward of being positive towards you. The expectation is not met, and you leave hurt and angry every time.
Your expectations do not correspond with reality at times, and that causes stress, frustration and other negative emotions. Once you have identified your expectations, ask yourself if they are rational, reasonable, and true to how the world outside your mind is. If the answer is no, then your expectation is out of touch with reality. Going back to the example above, you would be asking yourself if it’s true that what you do impacts that person’s behavior. The reality is that it does not matter what you do. As sad as that may be, it also frees you from the expectation and the continued disappointment and hurt. You can go into the situation with a more accurate view of the world and what to expect.
Expectations are a normal part of personality, and help us navigate the world. They, however, can also be a source of frustration and agitation when they are far out of touch with reality. By understanding the expectations you have of yourself and expectations you have of people and the world, you might be able to bring some peace of mind to yourself, and maybe even to those around you as well.
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