A Weighing of Expectations

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Our world is filled with expectations. It’s how our minds deal with the events and stimulus around us. Without this ability the mind would be on a constant edge of uncertainty, not knowing what lays wait around the corner. Expectations are impossible to escape – we place them on people, events, experiences, investment markets, ourselves, relationships right through to the coming day.

These expectations are the lens in which we view the world. They come from us and can shape our experiences just as much as anything else. And this is where expectations become dangerous. They can set us up for both exhilaration and disappointment.

I believe expectations can shape our reality in two ways. The first is in the form of self-fulfilling prophesy whereby placing expectation on something blinds us from seeing anything that doesn’t meet what we expect to see. We have the expectation that the next James Bond movie is going to be great and because of that we overlook the holes in the plot, or maybe the acting being subpar, but in the end we see what we want to see. This becomes a bias, and is dangerous as it can strip us from our objectivity.

Expectations can also shape our reality through the perceived fulfilment or unfulfilment of them. An expectation that isn’t met causes a reaction in us: good or bad. We might place an expectation that the coming day is going to be better, but when the day has come and gone and nothing has changed we experience a disappointment. Enough of these unmet expectations in our lives can lead us to unhappiness. On the other hand, having our expectations exceeded leads to exhilaration and enjoyment.

What is important in all this is managing expectations and understanding where these expectations have come from.

Rightfully or wrongfully we project our own expectations for ourselves onto other people. Human experiences are so varied and we each have different strengths and weaknesses that it’s unfair to expect that something is easy for you, will also be the case for someone else. Knowing where expectations have come from, and that they’ve come from the right places is crucial. Have they come from you? Have they come from someone else? Or have they come from past experiences? Perhaps all we can do is just be aware of why the expectations we have are there in the first place.

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