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Friday, 14 August 2015

Expectations

Following a conversation of yesterday evening, today's topic - expectations - has been on my mind. Expectations are like time-boxed personal goals. Not realising them - either in time or ever - leads to disappointment, disillusion or devastation depending on the importance of the expectation.

new MRI study from University College of London indicates that the secret to happiness is low expectations. Author and neuroscientist Robb Rutledge says, “Happiness depends not on how well things are going but whether things are going better or worse than expected.” (PsychologyToday)

Actually, this makes a lot of sense when I look at my past. Late 1991 I suffered a big disappointment when an expected promotion did not occur. When it did occur 6 months later, the pleasure - let alone happiness - of achieving it was minimal.

I now also fully realise that my 2013 heartache was due to very high expectations from my side and no expectations from her side. We were never able to bridge that "Grand Canyon" in expectations though I kept on trying numerous times. Devastation was the result.

Nowadays, I live with a minimum of expectations and feel happy and satisfied most of the times. Actually, I'm stress free as a result of keeping my expectations at a minimum level. The only serious deviation happened last Friday when I felt anxious for a meeting. That encounter went very bad and I felt very stressed as a result. I was unable to reach out and change the situation. I only thought about how that situation affected me, myself and I.

New research suggests that when we feel stressed out, we have a very hard time seeing the world from someone else's point of view. In other words, anxiety seems to be an enemy of empathy. A recent paper helps explain this phenomenon by linking anxiety to egocentrism. (GreaterGood)

If this is all the case, then why don't we learn from this by lowering our expectations? 

In my view, this is related to society's perception of being successful - or not. I have had high expectations, about myself and others, most of my life. Most of my own expectations have been fulfilled and I felt proud about my success but I seldom felt happy about it. Usually I was already very busy achieving my next expectation. 

It's not easy lowering your expectations when you are still in a "going concern" mode. I suppose it takes a life-altering moment. This also implies that expectation management is an entirely different concept. Expectation management is about setting realistic - not low - expectations in a "going concern" mode. Low expectations are seldom viewed as realistic (e.g., Budgeting).

Lowering expectations is a strictly personal issue. Conveying this to others may not bring empathy. Our society expects us to be ambitious. We should however realise that setting goals and expectations are related but not similar. I still have my 3 goals in life but I have no longer expectations when I will achieve them. I will not let go of my 3 goals as they are important to me. These goals bring purpose. Expectations bring stress and reduce the feeling of happiness.

My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations. Michael J. Fox