How much disappointment, grief, anger, and negative emotions in general in life are caused by foiled expectations? I think it’s quite a lot. How does that work in re-entry? Without realising it, you return “home” with expectations and assumptions about all sorts of things! Whether you’re already home, or just planning to go home, checking in with your expectations is a helpful exercise. It helps you see whether you are being realistic or whether your thoughts need adjusting.

Exercise on expectations

There are so many areas of life in which we carry expectations. I’m going to suggest some below, but I am sure you can come up with your own to add to the list, so don’t take it as exhaustive.expectations

Have a think about each area listed below, what expectations you carry of the people / places / thoughts / emotions involved. What assumptions do you hold about how it will be? What hopes or fears do you have relating to the topic? Try to write everything down uncensored, even if it sounds silly.

Sometimes of course, you don’t know what your expectation is until it has’t been met, in which case, insight comes later. But if you can walk in awareness of some of your expectations, then you are more able to hold them lightly. Better that than being deflated and disappointed by holding on too hard.

Possible topics

Here are some areas in which people commonly encounter missed expectations:

  • extended family – how much time you will spend together; what will happen when you do; understanding of the new person you / they have become
  • old friendships – continuing where they left off (or not); availability; understanding
  • new friendships – the ease (or lack of ease) of building new friendships; depth of relationship; finding new community
  • knowing how to be at home
  • faith community – belonging again; being “fed” by teaching; being cared for
  • children’s adaptation – to school and life in general
  • ease or otherwise of finding work
  • other…

Write as many things as you can think about in each area (and other areas you can think of): assumptions, fears and hopes.

What to do with these expectations?

So you have a list of expectations. What next? Look at each one in turn and ask yourself the following questions. You don’t need to ask them in this order. Nor does every question necessarily fit every topic.

  • Is this realistic? If I don’t know, who could I ask?
  • How could I see it any differently or adjust it?
  • Who do I need to have a conversation with about this?
  • What are the possible consequences of holding this expectation?

Remember, as far as friends and family go, they will have expectations of you and of their relationships with you, so it’s worth talking about these things together if at all practical.

Spending time with your expectations in advance is worth it for the hassle it saves when you get home. If you are already home, they are worth examining too. With hindsight it is possible to understand more clearly the impact your expectations have already had. What have you learnt about your expectations?

18th April 2018


Find more exercises like this in my online course: From Apprehensive to Quietly Confident – for you if you are preparing to go home