“I have been criticized lately of being too harsh. That my expectations of others are too high. That I do not let people bask in the glow of achievement before searching for that little bit extra. That frequently, my disappointment in the failure of others shows quite vividly. That I cannot save everyone. At face value, none of this bothers me. So be it. I consider it a tremendous insult to lower my standards. Upon reflection, however, I am left to wonder if I am being too harsh on people? I honestly don’t think I am yet … I am continually disappointed.”
That was a journal entry I came across from September 5, 2000. It could have been from last week. We often engage in silly exercises, like, “What would you say to your younger self?” When what we could be doing is inverting the question. By journaling, our younger self is writing a letter to our present being. To me, that’s a more valuable exercise. When we capture our thoughts, dreams, and fears of today, we inform our future self on how to behave to change the outcome.
I recall, in 2000, I was scolded by business associates that my standards were too high and that I should be more realistic, less idealistic. I struggled with the philosophies around expectation setting. There is a theory that has unfortunately gathered momentum, that you should never have expectations of others; that way, they will never disappoint you. While I get the intent — don’t force your expectations on others is a way of finding contentment. Release expectations and bliss follows, they say. I would walk in that realm with the same frequency with which you have an ice cream sundae. It’s a treat, not an everyday occurrence. It’s not healthy, nor dare I say, realistic.
Life and people will disappoint you — sometimes a lot and profoundly. Finding ways to manage your disappointment and bounce back is far more mature than preventing disappointment through avoidance. I would sooner have high expectations and fall short than no expectations and … what? What would you have with no gauge?
We operate in a society, a system of norms, traditions, laws, and consequences. I’m not a big fan of “allowing” things to unfold. Yes, of course, the universe is at work, with or without you. I’m not referring to spirituality; I’m focused on the interactions with other people.
What would I say to the younger man who wrote those words nearly two decades ago? Reaching back to educate the earlier version of ourselves is a fool’s errand; however, I’ve learned there is nuance to life. Be clear and listen. Then, listen some more. Communicate well and often. Make time to celebrate. Through time travel, what is he telling me now? Keep your expectations high, maybe raise them, so you have something grand to live into, and great goals to pursue.
Who is likely to be more disappointed in your life? You of today, with the actions and attitudes of your younger self, or the younger you in the current you and whom you have become?