WASHINGTON. How do you manage your expectations? Do you plan for contingencies? Do you expect the unexpected?
Your personal and business expectations can be categorized as high, low or none. Do your expectations fit into one of these categories?
I recently was listening to a forum discussion about expectations. One contributor used to have high expectations about different things and often ended up disappointed. Another claimed to have low expectations as a way of avoiding disappointment. A third individual I heard claimed to have no expectations at all because, once again, that individual did not want to be disappointed.
Expectations impact our lives both positively and negatively. David Rock, author of “Your Brain at Work” (HarperCollins, 2009) and the director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, says there are two sides to individual expectations. The first is what we expect from others. The second is what we expect from ourselves. How we manage those expectations is critical to how we view our experiences and pursue our goals.
Rock says there is a physiological reason we are disappointed when life does not meet our expectations. He states,
“When we don’t hit our expectations our brain doesn’t just get slightly unhappy, it sends out a message of danger or threat.”
Rock’s comment suggests that the well-known cliché “hope for the best but expect the worst” actually has much truth to it.
In addition, Rock also mentions that when the neurotransmitter dopamine, a human “feel good” hormone, is released, it does make us feel good when something positive happens to us.
Rock explains how this works.
“If we expect to get x and we get x, there’s a slight rise in dopamine. If we expect to get x and we get 2x, there’s a greater rise. But if we expect to get x and get 0.9x, then we get a drop.”
What is the downside for us when life does not meet our expectations? Our negative feelings of disappointment ultimately prove much stronger than the ‘feel good’ elation we feel when our experience exceeds our expectations.
Knowing this dichotomy is helpful. That’s because understanding what is under our control and what is not can help us manage our expectations realistically. In reality, we might be better off if we routinely learned to expect the unexpected.
For example, if you are currently seeking employment in a not-so-great job market, you can look at things two different ways. In such a stagnant job market, you may hold onto an overly optimistic expectation that you’ll get hired quickly anyway, despite the poor job situation. On the other hand, you might overreact pessimistically by making the assumption that you’ll never work again.
Change your approach and expect the unexpected
One remedy to address this kind of problem may be realizing the not-always-obvious fact that you control what you can control. For instance, to get a better grip on the employment dilemma, you can improve your odds by researching the current job market, networking and building relationships and applying for positions you are clearly qualified for.
So what is the takeaway here?
Learn to be adaptive and more flexible.
Understanding what we can and cannot control is the key to managing your expectations. Consider the choices you have, weigh them out, and make a decision based on realistic expectations.
Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, clearly recognizes the value of this approach.
“A good teacher sets really high expectations, but lets a student think he can reach them. That’s most motivating for students.”
I believe we are all students here on Earth School. Set realistic expectations with solid strategies to reach your goals and manage your expectations. As Dweck says,
“It is having flexibility in our expectations and being willing to change tracks without self-blame that has been shown to increase well-being.”
And to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, that flamboyant and quick-witted poet, playwright and cultural commentator,
“Expect the unexpected.”
For more Information Contact:
Susan Commander Samakow, PCC, CPCC
Certified Business, Life & Career Coach Focusing on Confidence & Resilience Strategies and Transition
301-706-7226 & 703-574-0039
Ask Susan about her coaching packages and the Stress Reducing techniques she teaches: EFT (Tapping) and Breathing Exercises.