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Men and Women

By Susan Dunn, MA,
Emotional Intelligence Coach

Think back for a moment on the major disappointments in your life. The reason they're disappointments is because they didn't live up to your expectations. You had something in mind that didn't happen, or you wanted something you didn't get. You also had made up your mind - if you think about it - that it was going to be horrible if you didn't get it.

You wanted the job and you didn't get it, so you were disappointed. If you hadn't wanted the job, you would've been overjoyed not to get it!

Also if you think back on disappointments in your life, I'm sure you'll find that in many instances, they turned out for the best. You didn't get the job you were aspiring for, but you got a better one in the end. Or the man you were dating broke up with you and you were sad, but then your found a better partner. Or you really didn't want to move to Lillian, Alabama, but once you got there you found it was its own version of paradise.

All of this is saying that we really can't be sure at the time whether things are for the best or not, and its our expectation that we must have it this way or we'll be devastated is what's making us miserable.

When you do this, you are setting up and either/or situation. You have arranged your expectations, and the future of your happiness on a proposition such as this: If I get this, I'll be happy. If I don't, I'll be devastated.

As the great poet John Milton wrote, "The mind is its own place, and in itself, Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

Now a more emotionally intelligent way to handle these things is not to lower your expectations, but to broaden them. By using emotional intelligence competencies such as resilience, creativity and flexibility, you can manage your emotions more effectively.

A simple example of this would be planning a vacation. Most of us put effort, time and money into planning our vacations, all of which are precious to us, and so we may find ourselves begin to hope its going to be perfect. When you do this, you are automatically setting yourself up for disappointment.

However, if you keep your expectations realistic and in line, you cushion yourself against the extremes. It's quite possible to have an enjoyable vacation that meets your needs (rest, rejuvenation, fun or adventure of whatever you're after) and not have every detail fall exactly into place.

One of the most important things to do is to remain positive. Expect the best, and avoid going into a downward spiral, or taking it out on yourself, if it isn't.

If, on this vacation, you aren't able to take the excursion you wanted to, you will feel better if:

  1. You don't blame yourself. Yes, you could've booked the excursion earlier, but the tour people could also have allowed for more guests to participate, yes?

  2. If you don't over-extend the importance of the event, i.e., "my vacations are always lousy.

  3. If you don't bring in other things that aren't relevant, i.e., "I can't plan a vacation or do anything well."

  4. Find things to enjoy despite the things that were disappointments. It's a rare ANYTHING that's 100% good OR bad.

Your expectation for perfection can make you miserable, and whatever you're doing, it's for sure your intent isn't to feel miserable. When you have unrealistic expectations, you compound your problem, because in dealing with one problem, you create a worse one. It's bad enough not to get the job, without blaming yourself, feeling devastated, and considering it part of a hopeless pattern of bad luck, incompetence, victim-ness, or your global ability to handle things.

Suit up, play the game the best you can, shower and go home. This means managing the emotions around all of these steps. Getting what you want is important. It's nice. But if you don't get it, it isn't the end of the world.

Resilience means being able to bounce back from disappointments, retaining your faith in yourself and hopes for the future. Understand the flow of things. Sometimes you'll succeed, sometimes you'll fail, and sometimes in retrospect, it's hard to tell the difference. About success and failure, Churchill said, "Success if not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts," and "success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm."

So keep your enthusiasm by managing your expectations and using your emotional intelligence


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ©Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, .  I offer coaching, distance learning courses, and ebooks around emotional intelligence.  EQ is more important to your success, happiness and health than IQ, and it can be learned. for FREE ezine.

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