“If you expect nothing, you will never be disappointed.” Has anyone ever said that to you? It’s been said to me before, but I don’t buy it. How can a human being expect nothing?

We can’t. It’s impossible. We ALL have expectations. There’s nothing wrong with having expectations. What gets tricky is the TYPE of expectation. Simple expectations — like I expect the sun to come up each morning, I expect to enjoy my first cup of coffee, I expect the news to be dominated by our President’s latest tweet, I expect January in Minnesota to be cold — are safe, predictable expectations.

But what happens when our expectations are based upon the behaviors of others? What happens when we expect people to act and behave in ways they simply cannot — for whatever reason. I call those contingency expectations. Meaning: fulfillment of my expectation is contingent upon your behavior.

Uh oh. Since I have no control over how others behave, contingency expectations end in disappointment more times than not. Ugh. People will disappoint us AND we will disappoint people. That’s a painful beautiful truth of being human.

So, now what? Well, we dig into the only solution available: stop expecting people to be different than who they are. People show us who they are every time we interact with them. For example, if your aunt behaves like a jerk every time you interact with her, odds are she’ll behave like a jerk the next time as well. Avoid the expectation that maybe this time she’ll be nice. If your best friend has a drinking problem and gets drunk every time you go out, odds are he’ll get drunk the next time as well. Avoid the expectation that maybe this time he won’t drink.

People are who they are. We can’t change them. We can only adjust, shift, and change OURSELVES. We all have the ability to shift from contingency expectations to REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.

The shift comes from within, by honestly acknowledging what’s going on and reality checking your expectations. By asking yourself, “What do I expect?” you give yourself the power, permission, and insight to look at the person for who they really are. You get to choose the realistic expectation that’s best for YOU.

This week notice your expectations. Ask yourself, “What do I expect?” from this situation or person. THEN ask yourself if this is a realistic expectation. If it’s not realistic, what can YOU do to shift your expectation? There’s power in the shift.

In the words of British journalist and author India Knight, “Be realistic with your expectations. I’d really like to cuddle with a unicorn, but it ain’t going to happen.”