Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

Managing Expectations

The world often gives us something other than what we expected. We go to a movie and walk out disappointed that it wasn’t exactly what we wished for when we went inside. Or we finish the work day and on our commute home, we relive an awful moment when our boss trapped us into working unpaid overtime, or we fret over a customer who complained until we were forced to give him a discount.

Our bosses and customers also reflect on how they received something other than what they desired today. They thought they were getting a super dedicated employee (instead of someone who just wants to give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wages) or a product that was perfectly designed, without a single flaw.

Expectation feeds into desire. Because we expect certain outcomes, we come to either desire them or dread them. We find ourselves planning our lives based on our expectations without giving sufficient weight to unforeseen possibilities.

We let our emotions dictate our actions, and the strongest emotions are negative: fear, anger, hatred. We are less inclined to run toward something pleasant than we are to run away from something scary.

Often we enter a situation with anxiety and emerge on the other side largely unscathed. Or we look forward to a party and return to our abode realizing that we would have had a much better time if we’d stayed home and read a book. Whatever our expectations, they’re often wrong.

They’re also internal. We can change them if we’re willing to open our minds. We just need to edit the story we tell ourselves about what is going to happen. Maybe the movie won’t be that bad. I’m going to open my mind and watch it in a non-judgmental way. Maybe she doesn’t love me the way I love her. Don’t fall apart if that’s the case.

By keeping our minds flexible, we can often deflect both negativity and unrealistic positivity.

So I guess the lesson is this: embrace change, revel in adapting to new circumstances, delight in the unexpected.

Whether your expectations are met or not, know that you have control over how you’re affected by them. You can choose to be a prisoner to your expectations or learn to adjust your mindset so that you are in control.

And know that every situation will eventually change. If you can control your negative impulses during the bad times and embrace the felicity that surrounds the good times, you will become a happier person. Nothing lasts forever, not even the earth and sky.


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