What do you expect from life? A question we ask ourselves or our friends when life seems to throw a curve-ball or you find yourself at a crossroad. In our teenage years, parents, teachers and other mentors ask: "what do you expect from life?" in order to help us find a suitable career path or make life choices. Later in your 20's, people ask this question to find out when you might get married or have children. And during late adulthood, we might ask this in review if we have achieved all we wanted to or if it's time to change direction.

So let me ask you now, what do you expect from life?

High vs. Low vs. Realistic Expectations

How you answer this question gets you thinking about the progress you've made toward your expectations or goals. A common goal is to have good relationships, a happy family and comfortable financial position. Our fulfillment level is often based on our level of expectation. Some people have high expectations from life, and this is great because it gets you striving above the norm, you know the saying- 'aim for the moon and you'll land among the stars'. For some this is the outcome and they feel satisfied with for their life, but others with high expectations can often feel let down when these are not met. What do you expect from life? Your Answer can leave you feeling disappointed and regretful. At the other end of the spectrum are those who have low expectations for their lives. These people set very achievable goals and reach them, but still feel unfulfilled. Why? because they have not given themselves the opportunity to unlock their full potential.

On the positive side, people with low expectations also do not expect as much from other people, and so don't feel as let down when people are just human and fail them in relationships. There has to be some kind of middle road to what you expect from life. For the sake of this article, let's call it realistic expectations. To high or too low, can leave us feeling a little down on life. Lets put things in perspective. A relationship with realistic expectations allows for people to have faults. Yes, from time to time we will let our partner down, and they in turn will let us down. That is the beauty of realistic expectations, and there is space for forgiveness in those times. Realistic expectations allow us to go as far as we are able in our career, taking into account our abilities and skills, but striving to be the best we can be. What do you expect from life? Something realistic?

Adaptable Expectations

Life often throws us curve-balls, or brings us to T-junctions, where a choice made by us or for us forces life to take a different path. Maybe its an accident or an illness, a breakup or redundancy. Nobody plans for these things to happen. Our character is really proven in how we make it through life events like these. What we're really talking about is what happens when what we expect from life doesn't turn out the way we planned. Let's take relationships as an example. Many of us might expect to get married by a certain age. If you've watched the movie 'My Best Friend's Wedding', the whole plot revolves around a promise two people make to each other that if they hadn't found love by the time they are 28, then they would marry each other. If something you plan doesn't work out, do you find it easy to go to plan B?

Many people may answer yes especially to insignificant problems that might arise. What if you planned to have children, and it turns out to be impossible for whatever reason? What if you find yourself facing a relationship break down when you always imagined growing old with that person? Life requires us to sometimes be adaptable in what we expect from it. Maybe a plan B doesn't come to mind right away, and often you may face a grieving process before you can see that new plan. What do you expect from life? Some level of unpredictability?

FROM Life, or FOR Life?

So this question has prompted us to think about what we expect life to give us. What if, for a second, we consider what we actually give to life. We can easily adopt an attitude of taking all we can get. Just take a look around you, you won't take long to find some kind of advertising, on television, the ad block on a website, an email, or your phone. No doubt it is offering something guaranteed to make your life 'better'. It is easy to be convinced that life could be all about you. What do you expect from your life? What if we turn that around and say it could actually be about everything else, but you?

There is a popular song from the 90's by a group called the New Radicals entitled 'You get what you give', while this makes it seem like an equation, it could be you do actually receive more by giving away. Perhaps happiness and fulfillment is about what we can give to others instead of trying to take for ourselves. Maybe it is donating to a cause you think is important, or volunteering your time, or making a meal for a sick friend or family member. There will always be someone who could use your assistance. When you do something for a reason outside of yourself, you get a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. The fact that you have made someone else's day better, also takes the focus off your own problems for a moment and gives you a better perspective on life. What do you expect from life? The opportunity to help someone else?

Where Do They Come From?

There are many factors that influence what we expect from life. Often our parents play a big role in forming our expectations. For one, we watched their lives from a young age and saw how their lives played out. They may also communicate expectations that they have for your life. We can not blame them for everything, however, there are many other places that help us decide what we expect from life including peers, religious faith, mentors, idols, television or movies, circumstances and partners. Have you considered how you came to expect what you expect from life?

We do actually get to choose what we expect from our own lives. No one else does this for us. We can choose how to respond when things don't go to plan, and we can choose to raise or lower our expectations. It does take some thought and conscious consideration of what influences our expectations, but a happy, fulfilled life is available for all of us to take hold of. What do you expect from life?

What Do You Expect?

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Theodore Lovelace holds a degree with an emphasis in political science and communication. Having worked in the counseling field for over thirty years, Mr. Lovelace has provided counseling services for individuals, couples, and families.