Stay open to a future of possibilities
Do you ever get excited for a big trip, an event or holiday, only to find out that the reality didn’t quite meet your expectations? Perhaps something over the holidays triggered that feeling, and you’re stumbling to jump start the year with a positive outlook.
“Expectation is the root of all heartache,” Shakespeare wrote.
Expecting a family gathering to go a certain way, people to get along or to receive a gift you’ve been pining for will inevitably lead to frustration. Even bigger dreams, such as being married by a certain time, having a certain amount of money in the bank or two kids and a dog by a certain age will only lead to greater feelings of heartache. Life never goes exactly the way we plan.
So, let’s take a look at the fundamentals of expectation and how we can better learn to manage it:
Where does expectation come from?
Expectations are based on past experiences – something that has happened to us or something we’ve witnessed in our lives. We hold that as the base line when comparing to similar situations down the line. They’re as simple and basic as spilling a glass of water and soaking the floor as a child. We now know what will happen if we drop a glass of water.
Although this may be helpful, it can more often than not be harmful. We may develop stereotypes about certain people, situations and have preconceived notions before we give someone or something a chance. We can either expect the worst or the best, when in reality we don’t know how or why life will play out the way it does.
How expectations affect us
In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers asked 48 participants to properly arrange objects in order of color gradation, while seated at a desk lit with an incandescent lamp. Half the lamps were labeled “environmentally friendly” while the other half were labeled “conventional.” All lamps were the exact same kind, but when asked which lamp participants preferred, they said the environmentally friendly lamp. What’s more, people who had those lamps made significantly fewer errors on the test.
Study participants said they thought the light was better in that lamp; in reality it had the same light as the so-called conventional lamp. This is living proof that our thoughts and expectations directly affect our reality – and that the placebo effect goes far beyond medicine.
Managing our expectations
To avoid having our lives controlled by expectations, the best thing to do is to hold positive intentions, go into any new situation with an open mind. You might think of this as having positive expectations.
Dr Richard Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, says those who some would generally consider to be “lucky” people have four common character traits. They are generally more open to opportunities, flexible in their routine, connected to a large network of people and easygoing about life.
When examined, all of these characteristics reflect a belief system that demonstrates positive expectations. Why would someone be open to opportunities, flexible and easygoing with so many people if they had negative expectations?
In addition, research shows that the number one characteristic of lucky people is their outgoing nature. Clearly, learning how to put yourself out there in new ways with different groups of people, in a relaxed manner, is key to achieving positive results of some kind. But remember, you’ll still never be able to control exactly what those results will be.
Having generally positive expectations will attract a better outcome and allow us to relax because we’re not holding any one person or situation accountable for the way we think things should go. When we let go of expectation, we invite the mystery of life to surprise us.