Lewis Answers: “We have discovered the enemy and it is us!”
It has always been my belief that common source of problems for individuals is a focus on regrets and misdirected expectations. Regrets are past perceived errors or failures. An expectation is something hoped for. A thought or deep attachment to the idea that something or someone will appear in a specific way in the future.
During my years as a Shaman’s apprentice and as a student of Zen, I was often told that to live life fully one must have “no expectations, and no regrets.” I was baffled by this teaching. After all it is normal human behavior to have expectations and regrets. Much of life is uncertain and in the face of uncertainty our activities are often focused on making something happen the way we would like it to.
Now, later in life I understand this teaching now. The truth is that an expectation, a thought that is centered on the future may or may not be realistic or even logical, and is seldom fulfilled the way we think or hope that it will. Even when an expectation is fulfilled it often leads us, more to disappointment than to joy. Most of us ignore this and yet spend a good part of our days in expectation.
As for the past? It is just a memory. The best we can do is make amends to those we have harmed by our past regrettable choices and actions.
On closer observation, it could be said that It is not having expectation that is the problem. It is that we often have expectations and assumptions about our expectations. This is the source of much unnecessary struggle and suffering.
I would say that in common usage an expectation focuses on the future of what may be, whereas an assumption is a belief, without fact that appears in the present.
Expectations can be of value in interpersonal relationships by defining “expected” behaviors from others and in the enforcement of agreements and creating a model for accountability. This makes them of use in creating life strategies. There are many systems within the social sciences as well as in classical Game Theory where expectation is a key factor in how we create life strategies.
From the book: