Expectations and Agreements

One of my mentors (Steve Chandler) offers a powerful distinction useful in just about every area of life: expectations vs. agreements.

Most of us have expectations. Expectations about how life should go and how people should behave.

Invariably, many of these expectations are not met. As a result we are disappointed, frustrated and upset. We can begin to think that life is unfair, or doesn’t work, people don’t like us or can’t be trusted or that we can’t be successful.

Expectations breed the following: (dis)stress, anxiety, feelings of betrayal, (over)reaction and fearful and negative thoughts – just to name a few.

Most perniciously though is that expectations create external blame. When expectations are not met it is because of something “out there.”

There’s an alternative though: Agreements.

Agreements are way to regain one’s power. To take responsibility for one’s life and state of mind.

Agreements are co-creative mutually-agreeable arrangements between the key players in a situation.

In an Agreement the stake-holders come together and establish what is desired and when it will be delivered. Often-times the how will be spelled out. But mainly it’s the WHAT by WHEN.

Agreements work because they are promises made by people with their eyes wide-open. They are created from mutual respect and not coercive. If necessary, consequences for deviation from the WHAT or WHEN, or HOW are spelled out.

Consequences are rarely necessary in a true Agreement however, because they are people’s “word.” They are vows made with the best information available and honorable intention. If an agreement isn’t met it’s something beyond the power of the stakeholder. There’s no blaming the person, just acknowledgement that the Agreement was insufficient – not enough was known about the WHAT, HOW or WHEN to make an accurate Agreement.

The wonderful thing about Agreement is that they can be re-made, with better information and a more accurate target. If an Expectation isn’t met we blame a person or an entity (focusing externally), however, when an Agreement proves insufficient we can point to flaws in the creation of the Agreement.

Expectations are for the weak and Agreements for the strong: strong of intention, energy and character.

Going forward, will you harbor Expectations or create Agreements?

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If you find that people don’t honor their Agreements you’ll know two things: you could never have expected anything of them anyway and 2) you need to find others with which to create Agreements.

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  1. Fantastic article!!!! “There’s no blaming the person, just acknowledgement that the Agreement was insufficient – not enough was known about the WHAT, HOW or WHEN to make an accurate Agreement.”
    I’m currently going through this with a new client. Where I got frustrated but quickly realized I did not set clear expectations for her. It has created much more work for me the past few months but a valuable lesson was learned. Set expectations and make accurate agreements.

  2. Thanks so much Chandra! I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. The power of co-creating clear and mutually beneficial Agreements is very powerful. I’d love to hear from you later as you work with this idea.

    Be Well

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