Our Expectations Forecast Our Future
What kind of day will you have today? How about this week? Will it be filled with excitement or tedium, problems or adventure, happiness or misery? I’m not a psychic, but I can predict your future by the answers you give to these questions. That’s because we create what happens to us with our expectations. In other words, our expectations are self-fulfilling prophesies.
What exactly is an expectation? It is a type of belief. We have two types of beliefs, core and moment-to-moment. Our moment-to- moment, or daily, beliefs flow from our core beliefs. For example, Tom believes the world is a hostile place, no one can be trusted, and suffering is inevitable. In other words, Tom is a pessimist. His belief that the world is unfriendly is an example of a core (foundational) belief.
Today, Tom has a job interview. But because of his pessimism he doesn’t think he will get the job. This is an example of his moment-to-moment belief, or what he believes will happen today. He EXPECTS to fail the interview. Most likely, he will because the interviewer will detect Tom’s negativity and consider him to be a liability for the company. Even if Tom were to get the job, he will later live up to his expectation of failing because his suspicion of others will make it impossible for him to become a team player.
So, our expectations, or moment-to-moment beliefs, forecast our future. But isn’t it possible that we can fail despite a positive attitude? Yes, of course, because there will always be things beyond our control. But such failures will occur in the short term only, for positive expectations always lead to success.
Let’s look at an example. Mary is skillful, knowledgeable, and cheerful. She goes for a job interview and fails. How come? Well, we live in an imperfect world (not a hostile one, yet imperfect), and the job interviewer is prejudiced. The interviewer doesn’t like Mary’s gender, color, and religion, so Mary doesn’t get the job. Mary may not experience immediate success, but she isn’t alarmed by her temporary setback because of her core beliefs that she can do anything, that she deserves success, and that she has a valuable contribution to make. As a result, Mary remains unruffled and keeps going to interviews, which eventually leads to success.
Think of our expectations as a switch. Not an on-off switch, but a positive-negative switch. You see, the switch is always on, but it is set to either positive or negative expectations. When the switch is set to positive expectations, we experience, enthusiasm, excitement, passion, meaning, purpose, serenity, friendship, empowerment, confidence, happiness, and good health. Yet, when it is set to negative expectations, we experience fear, worry, anxiety, depression, unhappiness, failure, powerlessness, anger, resentment, loneliness, stress, and poor health.
Because we will always live up or down to our expectations, it is critical for our success and happiness that we keep the switch set to Positive. But you may have had to sail through stormy seas or been battered about by crushing circumstances and now find yourself with the switch stuck in the Negative position. If so, it is time to start cultivating positive expectations, and here are some steps you can take to do so.
1. Engage in positive talk. That is, say something positive to everyone you meet. There are three reasons to do so. First, it forces you to look for the good, and when you look for it, you will find it. And as you regularly find it, you will become positive. Second, EVERYTHING YOU SAY TO OTHERS, YOU’RE ALSO SAYING TO YOURSELF. So, whenever you speak to others, you are programming yourself to become more or less successful; therefore, watch what you say! Third, when you deal with everyone in a positive way, they will treat you likewise, and their behavior will then reinforce yours, making you even more positive.
2. Awaken to your true nature. Understand that you are a seed meant to grow and flourish. The same energy that radiates throughout the universe flows through your veins. You are meant to be magnificent. But it is not about you or your ego. Rather it is about YOUR NATURE. Your nature is to adorn life. You are here not merely to experience life, but to add to it.
Paradoxically, when you think about how great you wish to become, you create a block, preventing your greatness from appearing. Why is that? Because we only wish for what we think we do not have. So, if you want to be great, you are denying what you already have, and, therefore, cannot use it. It is only when you unclench your teeth, loosen your grip, let go of your desires and allow your nature to shine through that you will discover your powers.
It’s okay to dream. In fact, I encourage you to do so. But once you create a dream, don’t thwart it by trying too hard. Once you make a plan and take whatever steps you feel are proper, let go of the reins and allow life to take you there.
3. So far, I haven’t completely revealed the Expectation Switch to you. I’ve only told you about two positions on the switch: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE. But there is a third position, the most powerful of all, and it goes beyond Positive Expectations. The third position is called Infinite Possibility. We can use this position only after awakening to our true nature, which is one of unlimited potential, creativity, and power.
If we act from our sense of self or ego, we will see ourselves as puny. No wonder we will be filled with self-doubt and incapable of greatness. But after awakening to our true nature and sensing our power, we will finally dare to dream. At this time we will become a visionary, one who goes beyond positive expectations to search out new possibilities. The Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro is speaking about the third position when he says, “Let your dreams outgrow the shoes of your expectations.”
Dottie Walters (1924~2007) asked, “Anyone can cut an apple open and count the number of seeds. But, who can look at a single seed and count the trees and apples?” The answer to Dottie’s question is those who are working from the third position, the position of Infinite Possibility, can. They can see and count the number of trees and apples in each seed because they are visionaries; they can see beyond what is to what can be. Join them.
4. Feed yourself positive thoughts. If we eat a healthy diet we become healthy. Similarly, if we feed on positive thoughts, we grow positive. One powerful way to nurture yourself with positive thoughts is by watching inspirational videos. Since you are already sitting in front of a computer, why don’t you try one now? Just click on the link below; pick a video, enjoy, grow positive, and discover what’s possible. http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=inspirational+video&emb=0&aq=1&oq=inspirational#
5. Don’t accept a life of mediocrity. Did you find Step 3 (Awaken to your true nature) difficult? Most people do. They find it hard to believe that we are so powerful. That’s why Step 4 is so important. You can easily become immersed in a video that has a mesmerizing melody and moving message. As you watch one video after another, some will resonate with you, pulling at your heart strings and awaken you to your true nature. You will suddenly realize that the acts of greatness that others are performing show what you, too, can do, be, or have.
So, don’t believe you were meant to lead a mediocre life. Paul’s story will help explain what I mean. Paul, like many of us, found it difficult to awaken to his true nature. He was totally lacking in confidence, so he sought the help of a life coach. Shortly before meeting his coach, Paul bought a new car. Later in the same day he regretted his purchase and realized that he was talked into buying the car by an aggressive salesman. Even though the auto dealer gave a 60-day satisfaction guarantee, Paul was too timid to return the car and ask for his money back.
When his life coach heard about what happened, he explained to Paul that unless we are in control of our lives, we cannot consider ourselves to be successful. He then went on to ask Paul, “Who do you want to be in charge of YOUR happiness, that auto salesman or yourself?” He persuaded Paul to return the car and ask for his money back. He joined Paul to provide moral support, but didn’t say a word. Before leaving for the auto dealer, however, the life coached explained to Paul that the car dealership was contractually legally bound to return his money if he asked for it. This buoyed Paul’s confidence, so he asked for his money back.
When the aggressive salesman couldn’t intimidate Paul into changing his mind, he excused himself and brought over the Sales Manager, who was equally unsuccessful. Finally, the Owner was called, but Paul stuck to his guns and refused to accept any offer other than the complete return of his money. The disgruntled Owner finally relented and agreed. They made Paul wait a week for his check, but he got what he wanted, thanks to the advice and encouragement of his life coach. After a couple of more sessions, Paul stopped seeing the coach.
A year later, they met by accident in the supermarket. After warmly greeting him, the coach said, “Well, Paul, after that episode at the car dealership you must be well in control of your life. I’m sure you don’t let others take advantage of you any longer.” Paul looked sheepish, and lowering his head said in a barely audible voice, “Well, I’m uncomfortable speaking up. It’s not my nature to speak up. That wasn’t really me at the car dealer. I’m not aggressive and I think it is important to be authentic. I don’t want to pretend to be someone I am not.”
The life coach shot back, “It was not you at the car dealer? Who was it that received his money back a week later? Wasn’t that YOU? It is not your NATURE to allow others to take advantage of you, it is your WEAKNESS. And weaknesses can be overcome with practice. It is not your nature, but your fears that allow others to walk all over you, and you can learn how to be courageous. It is not your nature, but your lack of experience, and you can gain experience, as you did at the car dealer. Once you gain a successful experience, you have to keep repeating it until it becomes a new habit. You see, it is not your nature to be weak, but your nature to act out of habit. So, if your habit is working against you, change it. Once you develop the habit of standing up for yourself, that will become your nature. And your new nature will then be aligned with your TRUE nature, which is one of unlimited potential and power.”
6. If you always do your best, you’ll always expect the best. It is only by raising our expectations and doing our best that we can tap into our true nature.
7. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, take baby steps. As each step brings you closer to your goal, enthusiasm, confidence, and high expectations develop. One success creates appreciation, many successes create positive expectations.
8. Expect the unexpected. Not only expect it, but welcome it because it is only by facing an unexpected turn of events that we can hone our skills and cultivate flexibility. In a rapidly evolving world, flexibility is a key to success.
9. Don’t allow your present problems to get you frozen in time. Look forward to future solutions. Or, as Wayne Gretzky said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Focus on where you’re headed, not where you are.
10. Take advantage of the power of commitment. Don’t merely think about your goals, commit to them! To tap into this power, reach down, deep within yourself, within your true nature.
MANAGING OUR EXPECTATIONS
1. Not everyone sets high standards for themselves, so don’t lower your expectations to those of others. Also, you are not here to live up to the expectations of others. Neither are they here to live up to your expectations. Rather, we are all responsible for running our lives in the best way we can.
2. We should never lower our expectations, unless there is no other choice. When problems arise, such as a downturn in the economy, it is better to rely on flexibility than it is to rely on lower expectations. That is, when problems appear, rather than expecting less, expect to find solutions and alternative ways of reaching your goals. Because our expectations are almost always self-fulfilling prophecies, it is better to overreach than expect less. When in doubt, it is best to err on overreaching and correct later, if needed, than to set an overly modest goal.
3. Part of expecting the unexpected is expecting the worse. Not because you are pessimistic, but because you want to be prepared just in case things go awry.
4. Dare to dream big because we can’t succeed beyond our wildest expectations unless we start with a wild expectation.
5. Be patient. Don’t give up so quickly. As May Sarton (1912~1995) wrote, “What is destructive is impatience, haste, expecting too much too fast.”
6. Expect to and be willing to work for your success.
7. Remain optimistic. Remember, an optimist expects his dreams to come true, but a pessimist expects his nightmares to come true.
George Bernard Shaw (1856~1950) told the following story, “A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, `The one I feed the most'”
Which dog do you feed the most, your negative or positive expectations? Where do you choose to set your Expectation Switch, to Positive, Negative, or Infinite Possibility?
For another article on expectations, see: http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/expectations.htm
For two books that will help you raise your expectations, see:
THE WINNER’S BIBLE: Rewire Your Brain for Permanent Change by Dr. Kerry Spackman, Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2009.
DO ONE THING DIFFERENT: Ten Simple Ways to Change Your Life by Bill O’Hanlon, Harper Paperbacks, 2000
I’ll end by calling on three gentlemen to share their wisdom:
“If you expect nothing, you’re apt to be surprised. You’ll get it.” (Malcolm S. Forbes, 1919~1990)
“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.” (Orison Swett Marden, 1850~1924)
“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” (Zig Ziglar)