Have high hope, but low expectations

This is a more concrete way of saying, “be open-minded,” a perspective you can take with you every time you are afraid of being disappointed.

Some people use the word “hope” as a verb, in a narrow focus toward one thing, when they really mean “expect.” This can cause a lot of trouble. Saying, for example, “I really hope s/he comes around and sees my point of view on this issue” channels the “hope” in only the direction of this very important goal. If the goal is not met, the heaviness of the disappointment will depend directly on the heaviness of the “hope” – which becomes, in reality, an expectation.

Expectations are the biggest source of disappointment out there! Think about it: every time you get disappointed, it happens because your expectations of a situation were not met. Additionally, unlike hope, expectations are usually more focused around one particular thing, something that can often close your mind to other sources of good happenings.


True hope is different than expectations; it’s more open-minded, especially the more it is generalized. “I have hope that something good will come out of this” does not confine “good” to one narrow area of focus. With high hope (notice I don’t say “hopes” – the less specific, the better), you are still free to find goodness where you weren’t looking for it in the first place.

Now, we wouldn’t be who we are without expectations. Expectations are not all bad; neither is fire. Fire can be very useful. The thing about these things, both fire and expectations, is that they are most useful when they are low and under control. Too often, however, we let expectations burn out of control.

The best expectations are those that don’t expect too much – the kind where a minimal result is good enough. You have control over this, in fact more than you might think: you can choose where to set the bar, knowing that if you set your expectations to a lower flame, you will be less likely to get burnt (you know, I kinda like this fire metaphor). It’s quite amazing how much you can change by changing your expectations. Perhaps this is why, quite often, a good period in somebody’s life is kicked off by a terrible event that set them back; they were forced to re-evaluate their expectations, and got a chance to clean the slate and do it right.

Sometimes, it is true, even with nice, wide-open hope, you will still be disappointed. There are situations that just don’t have much good to offer, occasionally. But even then, your hope is a better friend to you than your expectations – because an expectation lives or dies on its fulfillment, whereas hope is free to change its shape and live on. And even sucky situations will change – sometimes quite quickly. If you haven’t lost hope, you’ll see just how quickly.

Hope is the link between your desires (some of which can be pretty unattainable) and your expectations. There is a lot of stuff I’ve written elsewhere about getting in touch with your desires – it’s extremely important not to lose sight of what you want, because what you want will not lose sight of you. But while it is true that you can’t always get what you wish for, and thus you must not expect things that will disappoint you, there is a middle ground here, in which you can keep the desires you have in a safe space, where they are free to exist in harmony with those more ordinary things that you can and do expect – in the smiling, floating dreamland of hope.

Then, when life changes, you may often find that one or more of those faraway things that you simply desired and did not focus too much attention on has gotten closer – and you will be more ready for it if you have “kept hope alive” all this time than if you block it out. This is how positive people adapt to change so well; change happens, expectations one used to have don’t get met anymore – so they are dropped, and “hope energy” is explored, in search of ideas and desires once thought unattainable. In the process, one finds new grooves to fit into, new patterns that satisfy one’s old needs and often even create some new passions along the way.

The less you hug your expectations really close to you, and the more you keep your hope around, even if in a wide orbit, the easier it will be overall for you to navigate life’s vicissitudes. This is why there are very rich people that are sad, lonely, and unfulfilled, while in some cases, you come upon poor folks who relaxedly enjoy every day, even as terrible things happen to them.

High hope/low expectations is not the solution to everything. But hey – it’s one more tool in the arsenal. Who couldn’t use that? 🙂

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This entry was posted in Achieving peace and understanding, Beliefs and worldview, Conflict and dealing with negativity and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Have high hope, but low expectations

  1. Pingback: Why greater investment in finding a romantic match often leads to lesser returns; some thoughts | Positive Juice

  2. I really enjoyed this post – it chimes with my current mind-set and I found it most encouraging ! Plus way better worded than my head could figure out on its own. Thank you ! Blessed Be 🙂

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