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Unmet Expectations

February 21, 2023

Recently, Laura worked late, and I decided to mix things up with the kids. 

On these nights when I do the evening solo with the kids, time can drag on. I get home, pull dinner together, and try to get us all through the “witching hours” of the evening without too many meltdowns. (If you’ve ever had toddlers, you know what time of day I’m talking about!)

But this night was different. I decided on my way home that I was going to take the kids out to dinner. I fully expected it to be chaotic, but to me, it was worth it to fill up the time before bed. 

The next morning Laura asked how the evening went, and I was happy to report that it went better than expected! Yes, our youngest kept trying to get out of her booster seat, and our oldest had an unhealthy obsession with the salt and pepper shakers, but overall, they did well. We had a fun evening out! I went into the night expecting it to be crazy, knowing it wouldn’t be perfect, so the evening met and even exceeded my expectations. 

Isn’t it amazing how much our expectations impact our mental and emotional state?


Our days are full of various experiences, and we bring our expectations to them all. This isn’t a bad thing. Anticipation is a good and appropriate way to prepare for what’s ahead, but it’s a problem when we don’t set proper expectations for what’s in store. And that same evening I had with the kids could have been terribly frustrating had I expected something different. 

For example, imagine you’re planning a trip on a tight budget, so you and your spouse book the value hotel. When you arrive, you’re both surprised by how nice the accommodations are and how clean the room looks! You weren’t expecting it to look like this based on how much you spent. You are thrilled!

On the flip side, imagine it’s your 10th anniversary, so you and your spouse go all out and book a trip at a luxury resort. Unfortunately, you are both disappointed by the lack of staff willing and available to help and find your room and bathroom a little small and outdated. It definitely didn’t feel like the kind of luxury you paid for!

Was the cheap hotel nicer than the luxury resort? Not even close. But our expectations have a huge impact on how we value each experience.

The solution is not to have perpetually low expectations. When you sandbag your expectations, you aren’t allowing yourself to dream and anticipate life with the kind of excitement we all need. However, we should aim to set proper expectations. 

Think about a recent frustration. Ask yourself honestly, was the problem with the experience or with your expectations of it? It is a lot easier to change expectations than experiences.

This is true for us personally, but it’s also important for our relationships. 

If you’re a leader in your organization, you need to help your team set proper expectations for navigating a busy season.

If you’re a teacher, you need to help your students set proper expectations about what it will be like to work on the project you’re giving them this week.

As a parent, you need to help your children set proper expectations for what it will be like to celebrate their sibling’s birthday coming up.

As a pastor, you need to help your congregation set proper expectations about what it is really like to join and serve in various ministries.

Make it your goal to set proper expectations. We’ll all enjoy experiences more fully when we anticipate them rightly.


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