May 16, 2019•697 words
Another busy day, but again, it was a good busy. I'm enjoying a lull in the action right now, but things could pick up at any moment. It's a really nice day today so I drove my roadster to work. When I leave the office, the top is going down and stereo volume is going up! Since I haven't had a chance to enjoy my little sports car in a while, I'm glad I get to drive it today.
This morning as I was getting ready for work I was thinking about a couple of instances where I thought I knew someone, and they turned out to be not completely who I thought they were. It's disappointing to say the least, but then that leads to another thing: expectations.
When I think about it, all my anger, all my frustrations, all my disappointments, and yet all my joys are rooted in expectations. If someone, something, or a situation doesn't meet my expectations, I get mad, sad, pissed or, any number of negative emotions. When my expectations are met, I'm agreeable, happy, and in a good mood. When my expectations are exceeded, then I'm on Cloud 9.
For me, this is a tremendous realization. Because what started as disappointment in people not being true to their initial selves, at least in my perception, expectations are tied to every single part of that. Does this mean I should lower my expectations? I don't think so, as that could have a negative outcome overall.
I once had a girlfriend who used to live by the mantra, "I always assume the worst so that I'm never disappointed." Yes, others have said it, and it's somewhat cliche, but it seems to have it's roots in Stoicism. Really only so far as meditating before starting the day and thinking about the worst things that could happen regarding your dealings with other people, and the circumstances throughout the day. This way, when you've already explored "the worst" you can think of, anything less is a pleasant outcome.
But I don't think an all or nothing approach like lower my standards so low, that anything not resulting in pain, injury or death is a great answer. Nor is the constant setting of expectations of most things I can't control so high, that they could never possibly be met.
Then what about something with more of a balance?
As an example, when I drive into work, I hate traffic. I dread it, yet I can't control it. And when I get stuck in traffic and people are driving like they left their brains at home, I get really pissed off. But, in peeling that onion I can see that my expectations of my drive to work being blessed with no delays, less cars on the road, everyone moving at the speed limit or above, and everyone paying attention to the road rather than anything else but, aren't realistic because I can't control any of it.
If it's a weekday, and I'm going to work, so are tons of other people. Love it or hate it, that's reality. So, what if instead, I created more reasonable expectations of the drive to work that I can control? I love music, so I can expect to have a great playlist jamming while on the road. That's on me to be sure I've got the right playlist I want to listen to loaded up and playing.
I like always being at a comfortable temperature, so I set the heat or AC to a setting that will insure I'm comfortable while driving.
Now I get that the larger premise here is that Stoicism teaches that each person should control what they are able, and not be emotionally attached to the things you can not. But, when I frame it in the context of expectations, this somehow makes it more manageable to (hopefully) be able to focus on the source of my negative feelings and reframe those sources as things I shouldn't have such high expectations about.
We'll see how that goes, but at this point, I'd like to have a little more calm in my soul, so it's worth a shot.