Think back to when you were a kid. What expectations did your have parents from you? What about your coaches? Your teachers? Your friends? Fast forward to today. Do you have a significant other that has expectations from you? Or a boss? Or coworkers?
Now think critically about how these expectations play out in your life. Did your parents’ expectations of not getting in trouble keep you from doing some things you knew you shouldn’t? Of course. Did your coaches’ expectations of working hard push you to work harder? Of course. Did your friends’ expectations of following the crowd (peer pressure anyone?) affect the risks you took? Of course.
The problem is not in the expectations themselves, as many of them are positive. The problem is that this habit of allowing expectations to shape our lives never ends, and we can find ourselves not being able to tell the difference in other peoples’ expectations and our own. I think a huge part of the self discovery process is realizing how deeply expectations impact our lives, and using that to decipher what currently drives us. What most of us will find is a plethora of invisible expectations, established by others and inhabiting our subconscious mind, that have gotten us to where we are today. If we want true and complete control over our own dreams we have to start by living for our own expectations. What do you want out of your life? Where do you want to be in ten years? Where do you want to live? What kind of lifestyle do you want to have? What are your core beliefs that you want to live out? If there wasn’t a single expectation or judgement to be cast upon you, who would yoube?
The goal is not to be some super-independent individual who doesn’t care what others want, need, or think. The goal is to let our own internal motivators, our own internal compass, guide our decisions. When we filter out the noise, it’s easy for us to hear our own true voice, our true self. But to get there we have to recognize what is being driven by someone else’s expectations, and whether or not that expectation lines up with our own goals and beliefs. If it doesn’t, it’s an invisible expectation, and should be treated as such. As Howard Thurman once said,
“Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
It’s tough to be “alive”, or on fire for life, when that life is driven by someone else’s invisible expectations. Find yours, the ones from inside you, and allow them to help you come alive. The world will thank you.