This concept has been particularly hard for me to convey through the written and spoken word. While I’ve always enjoyed the spoken word, eloquence with the written word has eluded me. Even when speaking at length on the subject of expectations we place on others, I seem to miss the mark. Whenever I’ve expressed this idea it seems to come off as cynicism or nihilism. In reality, it has helped me appreciate how others navigate the world and keep in mind I’m not the center of their world.

Start your day by telling yourself you expect nothing from anyone, and you’ll never be let down. Sounds pretty negative. So I’ll allow Marcus Aurelius to share his thoughts.

Say to yourself at the start of the day, I shall meet with meddling, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, and unsociable people. They are subject to all these defects because they have no knowledge of good and bad.

Marcus Aurelius: Meditations Book 2:1

Marcus Aurelius goes on to explain that he, in turn, upon meeting these people, cannot be upset at them as we are all brothers and sisters. Fighting yourself is against the law of nature, so fighting another is never productive.

What I have learned is the precarious nature of expectations and hopes we place on others. In many relationships, be they romantic, platonic, or professional, we often have expectations of others but communicate them poorly or sometimes never at all. These expectations can be anything from “I hope they give me a bite of that,” to “I hope I get invited to the event.” By neglecting to state our expectations we set up the other person to fail. They don’t know what they should be doing. We gamble with our emotional well-being. When they do not come through with our hopes we end up hurt, emotionally. The solution, simple in theory, not easy in execution. Being direct and telling people exactly what you expect of them can be uncomfortable at first, but lead to greater rewards down the line.

In short, wake up and remind yourself you have no control over anyone or their actions. Ask of yourself more than you’ll ever ask of anyone else. Expect nothing from anyone and you’ll be surprised by how often you aren’t disappointed.

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