I recently has a conversation with a long-time friend of mine and she was sharing about something in her life that was repeatedly frustrating her. My response, after listening, was a gentle reminder that what she resists will persist and that she might consider lowering her expectations. It became obvious, in short order, that what she heard was “Lower your standards”, in contrast to what I actually said, which was “Lower your expectations”.
So, now being one that wonders about life, I got curious and I resorted to Webster’s. Here’s what I found:
Expectation: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future; a belief that someone will or should achieve something.
Standard: quality, level, grade, caliber, merit, excellence; principle, ideal; code of behavior, code of honor, morals, scruples, ethics
What jumps out at me right away is the difference between what’s within our realm of control and what isn’t. “Expectation” is all about something outside of us, whether that be a goal we want to attain or a measure for another person; “standards” are all about things within us, things within our realm of control, choices we can elect for ourselves.
It seems that where we get confused is in thinking that we have control over someone else’s standards. We may have influence (positive or negative), but influence and control are not the the same thing.
So, it’s not a wonder that when someone says “Lower your expectations”, that what is heard is “Lower your standards”. When we have crossed that invisible line into placing expectations on another person’s standards, aren’t we really just trying to mind their insides, so we don’t have to tend to our own?
It is much more challenging, yet rewarding, to act in a manner congruent with the inner knowledge that my standards are personal to me and, likewise, others are personal to them, and they don’t all have to be the same. My expectations are exactly that, MY expectations—and those have no bearing on what might actually happen other than to set us up for disappointment or to get us so focused on that exact thing happening that exact way, that we entirely miss something way better is unfolding.
My expectations are inversely proportional to my my level of peace. The higher my expectations, the lower my peace; the lower my expectations, the higher my peace.
Standards, on the other hand, are about knowing who you are, what’s important to you, what’s not, what your boundaries are and what’s tolerable. As with anything though, “standards” are not without their risks. They give us easy ground from which to judge others—higher ground.