The Power Of Expectation

One thing that I’ve come to notice is that expectation seems to be inexorably linked to how I feel about certain situations or experiences. For example, I’ve noticed that when I’m looking forward to something I regularly end up disappointed and vice versa I can be left pleasantly surprised.

It is also a concept that seems to apply to how I sell myself. I tend to undersell so that I don’t have to face the pressure of people expecting too much from me. I don’t like the idea of being taken on for a job that I over sold myself for and can’t possibly achieve as fully as I promised. I know of another guy that is the opposite and will reveal how long he’s spent on a project or make claims to it being the best work he’s ever done; The thought of doing this makes me cringe slightly because I feel like people will judge it by a higher standard. I’ve noticed that when I’m in the company of people that are on the side of big-headedness – even if they are genuinely talented – I’ve looked closer to find criticisms that I might not have if they’d been a little more modest. Then again, what I do isn’t ideal because it’s running the risk of being overlooked and people are often drawn to and reassured by confidence.

The expectations that others have for us can also affect us (as suggested by ‘The Rules of Persuasion, The Rules of Expectation—The Impact of Suggestion‘ and ‘How do Parental Expectations Affect Kids?’) Having high expectations put upon us can help us to push ourselves to succeed, whereas feeling like people have lost faith in us can pull us the other way. I have also been in situations where I had too many high opposing expectations set on me from different directions – parents, teachers and peers – and it led to a lot of stress because no matter what I did It never seemed to be good enough (we shouldn’t always strive for perfection.) What we expect from ourselves is also important – how can we be motivated on a project if we go in already expecting to fail? I think this is a problem that is currently affecting my own levels of motivation as I had a few setbacks, causing others to question my choices in life and in turn leading to a lack of belief in myself. Previously my family, teachers and peers had only ever bigged up what I was capable of.

Expectation can colour our view on life. When I’m entering a new situation I try to set my expectations appropriately. If I’m expecting something to be brilliant I may end up disappointed or making up excuses for why it is lacking, and on the other side of that if I’m expecting something to be terrible I’ll be more likely to search for faults even though my initial assumption may be wrong. The same goes for how we treat others. If we have unfair expectations of our friends/family we will be all the more likely to feel let down by them, but at the same time we could get hurt if we don’t at least expect them to treat us kindly. We should all expect to be treated with a certain level of respect after all. Finally, our own behaviour can be altered by others expectations of us or what we expect from ourselves. If we want to get the best out of ourselves, surrounding ourselves with the right people can really help. We should expect ourselves fully capable of succeeding, but set reasonable goals to get there otherwise we run the risk of causing ourselves a lot of stress.

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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

9 responses to “The Power Of Expectation”

  1. Lori L MacLaughlin says :

    Very thoughtful post! You are so right, with all of it. It’s so hard to find that balance. With myself, I try not to have high expectations, because I don’t want to be disappointed. I would rather be pleasantly surprised. And I undersell myself, too, partly because I’m not comfortable with a lot of attention and partly because I don’t want others to be disappointed in my work from having had high expectations.
    As a parent, I want to challenge my kids to do what I know they are capable of doing, but I don’t want to push too hard. When I was in high school, the teachers were always pushing me to do more and more until it got to the point where I hated school. I’m sure that wasn’t their intention, but that was the result.
    Dealing with expectations can be difficult and even damaging. It’s something I struggle with all the time.
    On a side note, I haven’t forgotten the award for which you nominated me. I plan to do the award post this coming week. 🙂

    • wallcat says :

      Thanks for the interesting comment. My partner avoids reviews and news on upcoming releases because he dislikes how all the hype affects the way he feels about a new launch. I just try to keep an open mind to the possibility that I may end up feeling a different way about it.

      I’m the same way. I meet a lot of people that are the opposite and seem to love being the centre of attention or taking the lead, but I’ve always felt more comfortable on the sidelines. It’s difficult when you’re a creative person, wanting to get feedback on your work and hopefully to have people enjoy it, but don’t want to be in the limelight yourself. Then again, I think it’s normal for a lot of creative people to feel anxious about how others will receive their work.

      I agree, I think when pushed too hard expectation can be quite damaging. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a pat on the back for what we have already achieved instead of always trying to reach for the impossible. In The Chimp Paradox it says we should focus on trying our best instead of reaching for perfection.

      There were a few lines in The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb about expectation that I could really relate to. At one point the main character mentions something about how it doesn’t seem to be possible to live among people without getting hooked in by their expectations. Those expectations can be good or bad for us. For me it was the expectation of others wanting me to be something I’m not. I don’t like to put pressure on people, but at the same time I like to be encouraging. I know that when I have kids these thoughts will probably affect the way I try to bring them up.

      • Lori L MacLaughlin says :

        I’ve always been more of the wallflower type. I agree about giving ourselves a pat on the back. I don’t know why it’s so much easier to criticize ourselves than it is to celebrate our accomplishments. I want to succeed by my own standards and not base my success or failure on someone else’s expectations.

      • wallcat says :

        I know what you mean, but it can be difficult letting go of what other people might think. We do tend to be our own worse critics though, plus we work so closely on our own stuff that we know it inside out. We know where things went wrong, but nobody else does. One of the reasons we do it is for that feeling of pride and self-fulfilment though, so we have to allow ourselves to feel it sometimes.

  2. lexacain says :

    I agree with you – it’s easy to imagine you know what’s going to happen, but there are always surprises in store. It’s best to temper expectations and try to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. And personally, I ignore the expectations of others!

    • wallcat says :

      Most things never turn out how we expect, but If we over think it and then the unexpected happens it can throw us. I’m trying to learn to ignore the expectations of others, sometimes we have to live our lives as our own.

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