I remember whining to my sponsor when I was new about how some of the people in my life weren’t following my script. “Do you always expect to get your way?” he asked. “Yes, of course.” Well then you had better prepare yourself for a life full of disappointment because it’s never going to happen.” I was shocked. Of course I expect to get my way. Doesn’t everyone? Isn’t that the way life works?

Expectations of other people sooner or later end in resentment. For most of my life I expected people to treat me the way I treated them. Today I know that other people are not in my life to fulfill my expectations. We are all hot-wired to pursue our own happiness. Besides, if I always got my way, I would never grow.

The more reasonable my expectation, the angrier I get when it isn't met. Isn’t it reasonable for the people waiting to get on the subway or elevator to allow the arriving passengers to get off first? Well, not in China it isn’t. With so many people, parents train their children to push to the head of the line or risk being left behind. Today I don’t take this behavior as personally because I understand it. I learned the Chinese words for “you have bad manners.” I repeat this phrase when I have to push through a crowd to get off, but I have no expectations any one of them will change.

I suffered unmet expectations in intimate relationships throughout my life. When I allowed myself to be vulnerable, I expected the other person would never do anything to hurt me. When they didn’t love me exactly like I thought they should, I closed down in self-protection. I’ve learned the hard way that pain results from trying not to love. I aspire to allow everyone in my life to be exactly who they are. I’m not there yet.

Many years and hundreds of AA meetings later I see that disappointment, resentment and disillusionment are tied directly to my expectations. It is impossible for me not to have expectations -- to completely let go of results -- but my life is infinitely more peaceful if I don’t hold my expectations too tightly. When I demand others follow my script, unhappiness results. I try to keep my expectations as preferences. Then, if they are met, great. If not, well, that’s OK too.

Living without demands on others is truly the softer, easier way to go through life. Now if I could just get 1.3 billion Chinese people to learn some manners!