This past semester I studied abroad in Europe. It was absolutely one of the most formative experiences of my life, but mostly because it didn't go as I had planned. I recently went on a date with a guy I felt I had an instant connection with. it didn't go as I hoped. This afternoon I ate a burrito for lunch. It wasn't as great as I wanted it to be. I have typed and retyped the opening sentence to this piece about eighteen times. The words aren't coming out as I envisioned them. What do all of these things have in common? Unmet expectations.
I have always been a big dreamer. You know the kind the really cliche kind that is always imagining the most fantastical and wonderful outcomes for myself. I'm incredibly hopeful. I've always loved this aspect about myself. The problem that goes along with being such an imaginer though, is that oftentimes these hopes turn into expectations. Expectations are wildly dangerous because they usually lead to disappointment.
Now I’m no expert here, but I find it safe to assume (at least for myself) that about ninety percent of all disappointment comes from expectations not being met. However, I have come to learn that in my own life expectations are unavoidable. I think I just have this desire to try to control everything around me. If I plan for a certain outcome, that’s comfortable. I can picture it. Well about 9.9 times out of 10, it’s not going to turn out at all the way I am expecting to. And even if the outcome is better than what you expected, you wasted energy on unneeded anticipation (which by the way is ALWAYS worse than the outcome, but that’s a different article…). So here’s where I jump in with the point of this article. The past few years, due to a lot of disappointment that was expectation related, I have found a way to somewhat tackle them, and while it’s no foolproof method, it has kind of worked.
Think about the last time something went as you had planned it would.
I’m thinking really hard and can’t recall anything. So that’s the first step. As soon as an expectation creeps into your mind, remind yourself that it doesn’t matter what you’re planning on, it won’t go that way anyway.
Now think about all the times when whatever something didn’t go as planned killed you.
You’re still reading right? Great. Remind yourself of that every time something begins to go differently. You’re probably going to survive it. Not only that, the change in circumstance may even become insignificant down the road.
Finally, think about how much you learned from things not going as planned.
Sometimes when I look back on certain events that have happened to me, In most cases, I’m more thankful for the bad outcomes than the good ones because I learned so much about myself in the process. They are really hard to deal with, but you become such a stronger person through it all. And then it becomes kind of exciting to predict what kind of personal journey you will be going on next.
Overall, I know this won’t work for everyone. Heck, it still doesn’t work for me all the time. But it does help to remind myself of these aspects. After the all the only thing you should expect is nothing at all.