Now that I've started making my own YouTube videos, I've been spending even more time than normal watching online videos, and last week I stumbled across Jenna Marbles' "Why Low Expectations Are Good." At first I thought it sounded a tad negative -- after all, shouldn't we set high expectations? But as I watched, I realized she made some pretty amazing and thought-provoking points about expectations.
"Having no or low expectations is one of the most powerful things you can do -- if you can use it to your advantage," Jenna says, and, as I watched the video and listened to her talk about goals, expectations, and relationships, I realized just how right she is. Having low expectations might sound like a bad thing, as if you're settling for less than you deserve or willing to put up with others' (or your own) bad behavior, but it's actually one of the very best ways to stay positively present.
LOW EXPECTATIONS + WORK
In the video, Jenna says, "There's a difference between goals, standards, and expectations. You can set any amount of goals you want, as high as you want, and you can work hard to achieve those goals. Your expectation of that outcome of that work and whatever you're working towards needs to be low or none whatsoever. Working hard toward your goals while having no expectation of what the outcome of that might be allows you to live your life completely without fear of failure."
When you set a goal or start a project, it's actually a good idea to have low expectations. This doesn't mean that you don't want it to work out or you won't work hard toward your goal. It simply means you won't be focusing excessively on the outcome. Not focusing so much on the future will give you the freedom to be completely in the present moment. When you're in the present, you're less fearful and you're willing to take the (calculated) risks that often lead to great success.
"As long as you're working hard and applying yourself the best you can," Jenna says, "you have no control over what happens in the end. The only thing you have control over is what you have control over." When it comes to work, you have to just do the best you can and let go of what you think the outcome should be, and the only way you can do it that is by releasing all expectations.
LOW EXPECTATIONS + RELATIONSHIPS
It might seem like low expectations are exactly what you don't want when it comes to relationships, but, as Jenna notes (and I've also personally found to be true and wrote about in this article), expectations often get in the way of our relationships. We should, of course, have standards. We should know what we'd like in a partner or friend, and we should never tolerate mistreatment or abuse. But standards -- the required levels of quality we want in our relationships -- are different from expectations -- the beliefs that something will (or should) happen in the future.
Again, this goes back to staying present. When we don't focus on expectations, we are in the moment. We can focus on what's happening now and determine if our current relationship is what we want. On the flip side, if we're spending tons of time expecting things from others (or feeling let down when they don't meet our expectations), we're not living in the moment. We're focused on the future or the past, and that can really hold us back from enjoying, and mindfully interacting with, others.
This can be especially important when it comes to meeting new people. I really love Jenna's magpie analogy for new relationships:
Meeting new people and starting new relationships is a lot like being a magpie, the bird that likes shiny things. You're flying around, looking for some shiny things. Ooh, shiny thing! So you go down there. Oh. It's a bottle cap. Okay, that's cool. I'm gonna just keep flying around, looking for shiny things. Oh! What did I find? Kim Kardashian's engagement ring. It's beautiful. It's a diamond. I really like it. Sometimes I find I find crap... but does that mean I can't find a diamond? No! I'm a magpie! I'm gonna look for more shiny things.
The people that you meet in your life are shiny things. Treat them all like shiny things. Then use your little bird claws and bird beak and bird brain to figure out if they're a diamond or a bottle cap. Then you can decide which ones you want to take into your nest.
You don't need to be disappointed by people if you have no expectations of them. When you meet someone, you don't even know them. They could be a bottle cap. They could be the foil that wrapped up a hotdog. Or, they could be a really cool diamond. You don't know until you use your little bird mouth and figure out what it is.
Of course it's difficult not to have expectations of people when you first meet them. You've got a lifetime of experiences with other people tucked in your mind and, as humans, we try to figure people out quickly using whatever knowledge we have so we can assess whether they're friend or foe. But going into every new relationship you have with no expectations is one of the best ways to create new, positive relationships -- and to not be disappointed by the ones that don't work out.
LOW EXPECTATIONS + BIG EVENTS
When when it comes to big events -- weddings, birthdays, holidays, etc. -- expectations often take the wheel and drive us directly to Disappointmentville. Have you ever reflected back on a special day (your birthday or a holiday, maybe) and felt let down when the day was over, even if it was a perfectly great day? There's a difference between feeling sad that the big day is over and feeling disappointed because, even if all went according to plan, it didn't quite live up to your expectations.
Guess what? No day, no matter how wonderful, will ever live up to the picture-perfect moments in your mind. Reality is never as wonderful as imagination. (Yes, that sounds negative, but it's true!). When you experience disappointment after a perfect-on-paper day, those feelings are a side effect of expectations literally stealing your joy.
When you go into something with super high expectations, it will never live up to what you imagined, no matter how great it is. That's why it's a great idea to take this advice from Jenna:
Every birthday that you have, assume that you're going to lay on your couch and watch Netflix. Everything that you do that's better than that is really exciting and great. And you're grateful and you're happy and everything's wonderful.
If you want to have an amazing experience, set your expectation level to zero. That way, whatever happens will be absolutely amazing and wonderful. And anything that doesn't go perfectly according to plan will be no big deal because you had no expectation that it would go any other way than the way it's going. Low expectations = absolute acceptance = more opportunities for joy.
LOW EXPECTATIONS + SELF LOVE
Having low expectations for yourself is actually an important act of self-love. It opens you up to new experiences, new ways of thinking, and the opportunity to truly and honestly love who you are -- no matter what. Jenna explains the limits of expectations perfectly when she says,
When you have certain expectations for yourself, you limit your choices. And you limit what you can do in your life by what you've already set as what you want. People get stuck in their thinking and they refuse to see all of the options beside them because they're stuck in their expectations of their life. If I do X, I'll get Y, when, in reality, if you do X, you could get any other letter in the alphabet -- including X again!
Life is crazy. It's filled with ups and downs, and tons of surprises. When it comes to how you think about yourself and the expectations you have, you need to have high standards, aim for positive goals, but let the expectations go. Expectations are limitations. When you're open to being someone other than what you think you're supposed to be (either because you believe it or because someone else / society told you to believe it), your the possibilities for your life -- and who you are -- become endless. As Jenna says, "Be open and don't have this concrete path in your life because you'll miss all the opportunities to be a different, better you."
If you want to watch the full video, you'll find it below. Or you can click here to watch it on YouTube.