top of page

Great Expectations – Finding the light or melting in the sun?

Expectations can guide and motivate us in the right direction, but also burn us under their searing heat.

Borrowing the title from the 1860’s Charles Dickens novel, “Great Expectations”, I wish to explore where expectations can help us and where they can weigh us down, as this has been on my mind the past week. Also, bonus points for anyone who got the INXS reference in the headline, the song “Melting in the Sun” features great expectations in the lyrics.

Our expectations are associated with our potential, opportunities, hopes, prospects and anticipations. We can give ourselves expectations or we can get them from other people and society at large. Also, things are expected from us based on our age, young and old, just ask any child protégé or mature adult. With the roles we play, these things then become more broadly associated with accountability and responsibility.

Great expectations can be placed upon us or by ourselves from a young age and sometimes these help to propel us to greater heights later in life and sometimes they end up making our lives a living hell where we can come to vehemently resent the people who put those expectations on us or strongly hate ourselves for not living up to our own.

We can’t all be God-like as Apollo (given how he is the Greek god of the sun, it’s appropriate for the metaphors used in this article which, funnily enough, I didn’t actually plan). We can’t all be great, it would cause a system error in the algorithm for greatness, and I wrote about why this is okay in another article. Great expectations can be a massive burden, but the rewards can be immensely satisfying should you manage to reach your desired outcome.

The thing is, however, it isn’t attaining the aim that makes us happy, not really. We’ll have a temporary feeling of elation, euphoria and ecstasy before going what’s next? If attainment is the end goal then the whole game collapses into a Sisyphean task, we just keep pushing the rock to the top of the hill over and over again. We are more motivated by having an aim than by attaining it, we need to know where we are going.

The key takeaway is to work out whether your great expectations are working for you or working against you. Sure, expect great things of yourself if you want, but not to the point where it creates a miserable existence devoid of joy…(quietly makes note to self haha).

I’ll leave you with this quote from Stoic Roman philosopher Seneca, “the greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today.”

68 views4 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Tal Nemet
Tal Nemet
Feb 15, 2022

Dear Martyn. I have stumbled lately on your website and I've been enjoying it greatly, so thanks! In terms of expectations, I do think they take more then they give, since they have a certain attachment to them. This remind me a Bhagavad Gita quote I like: 2.47 - "You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction." There's more then we can figure out going on, and rarely is anything solely because of us. Thus, we should work without expectations, as the fruits of labor are not solely ours,…

Martyn Foster
Martyn Foster
Feb 16, 2022
Replying to

First of all, let me welcome you to my site, Tal! Thank you for signing up! I'm glad you've found some benefit out of my writings and have been enjoying them, I appreciate the kind comment and feedback. Not surprised to see someone mention attachment and the Bhagavad Gita one after the other 😉 There is indeed more going on they we can ever figure out, I agree wholeheartedly with you there. I like to hope I'm not the only get the fruits of my labour! Eastern philosophy is certainly a good antidote to modern Western thinking (for a lack of a better term) for a growing number of people...although it's difficult to shake off great expectations of myself haha Sometimes…


Martyn Foster
Martyn Foster
Aug 23, 2020

Indeed they can take more than they give. I think it is a philosophically sound life to learn to live with the least amount possible. It is easy for a lot of our life energy to be caught up, and our joy in, externalities.


Unknown member
Aug 21, 2020

Great expectations can take more out of us than they and let be is my should be "simply" enjoyed as much as possible! :-)

bottom of page