Originally a novel by Charles Dickens.
As is obvious to those who have read the novel or seen the film or know of either, having great expectations can frequently lead to great disappointments which are capable of resulting in us leading largely miserable lives – quite the opposite of the original expectation.
As with just about everything in our life, expectation can have both benefit and cost to us – the secret is to understand it and how to ensure we don’t abuse it by unrealistically over-expecting or by under-utilising it as a positive tool for our lives.
We abuse it when we rely too much on an overly optimistic idea of what we should expect in our lives, such as in the idea of a ‘Happily ever after’ so favoured by the fantasists of Hollywood and some (all?) romance novels. Life is most often a series of both highs and lows which we should all learn to understand (expect) is how life works . To get the best out of life is to be able to fully appreciate where we are at any given point in time (like this point for example). If you are in a place where you can feel happy, then do so, if you are not then learn to appreciate the most appropriate feeling and to take the most appropriate action for your current circumstance with the understanding that you will come again to a happier place in good time if we act appropriately now.
We can also abuse it when we do not consciously USE it as it can be used, which is to assist our endeavours by minimising any negativity we have and allowing for both hope and renewed strength when we have need of it, to overcome obstacles we find along our way to a goal (or expectation).
Here’s an example of what i mean: I modestly report that i have a better than average memory and ‘basic’ mathematical ability. (Arithmetical, geometrical and probability wise – forget about calculus and the higher branches of maths!) One of the reasons for this can be put down to my expectations. Based upon previous experiences, I EXPECT to remember things and to be able to accurately compute or check certain calculations in my head. I recently heard a song on the radio i had not heard for well over a decade, possibly two or three, and recognised the singer’s voice and could recall the name of the song but did not immediately attach a name to the band who performed it.
As you no doubt know, trying to force yourself to recall what you knew a long time ago is rarely successful so i chose this time instead to relax and to intentionally expect that the name would quickly come to me because i ‘know’ i have a good memory. Within minutes, and before the radio host could name them, The Reels (Quasimodo’s Dream) was the result that i had expected in advance.
It annoys me whenever i hear someone say: “I have a terrible memory” or “I’m no good at maths.” because even if, at that time, it were true, telling yourself this over and over and inside your own mind is mostly what is preventing you from being otherwise. Any of us can improve their memory or mathematical ability!
The very first step is to stop ‘expecting’ and reinforcing in your own mind the PERCEIVED lack of ability and start expecting to be better than you were (as we all should in everything we do – Every Day, In Every Way, I get Better and Better!). Follow that up with some step toward improvement, maybe have someone help you or look up tips and tricks on Google for the thing you want to be better at, there is tons of free help available to us all if we look.
So, to summarise, learn how to use expectation as it should be used, not as it most commonly is used. Recognise that unmet expectation can be dangerous and the most frequent cause is placing too high a value on unrealistic ones (that is not to say you cannot have Great Expectations, just be aware of the likely consequences if your circumstances are such that they are most likely to never be achieved while those circumstances (or worse ones) exist). Recognise also that you can consciously use and not just ‘have’ expectations to your advantage. Learn how to, and also how to choose which ones will give you the best results. Remember that expectations (like expecting to fail) can also assist you to do negative things to yourself and learn to see them for what they are and avoid them. Anticipation of an expectation is actually an aid our brain’s can use to ensure the expectation has a greater chance of becoming realised.