Expectation is the cause of great suffering. The Packers final game this year was a great example of expectation and hopes dashed. They SHOULD have won that game. They dominated for 90% of it. As we, packer nation, rolled into the fourth quarter we had every reason to expect a super bowl berth. We could taste it, it was so close.
And while we could talk about the horrible statistic that says domestic violence rises proportionally to the intensity of dashed expectation of our team winning, this is not just a Packer issue. It is a human emotional reaction that can be allowed to create suffering and drama in our lives whenever our expectations are not met.
What causes expectation to turn to anger and then to drama or even violence? If we break it down, expectation is a desire. By placing our desire into an external outcome we create drama because no matter how hard we try, we cannot truly control anything but ourselves. The higher the intensity of our desire, the higher the negative or positive reaction we have when our expected results appear or disappear. If we have no invested desires in an outcome, then we have no emotional reaction to any of the results, be they good, bad or ugly.
Anger is an emotion that basically says, “Get out of the way! You are blocking me from achieving my desire.” If our expectations are not met, then the flash of anger that comes from it sometimes explodes outward like a grenade. Anything in the immediate area is going to get hit with that flash of anger as we process our reaction to dashed expectations. Again, the higher our investment in the result, the higher the potential anger.
Once we understand and identify this process, we have an opportunity to work with it. The first critical step in handling the negative effects of expectation is building self-awareness. This includes awareness of our true expectations as well as the level of emotional investment we are projecting onto the results.
Second, the application of a philosophy called, “Releasing The Fruits” can be useful. It calls for us to change the focus of our minds from gaining satisfaction in the results of our actions to gaining satisfaction in the process leading up to the results. It is often said differently, “Happiness is not in the destination, but in the journey.”
So, instead of focusing all our satisfaction on making a big sale, we can gain satisfaction from dressing professionally, speaking clearly to the client, and answering their questions. If we learn to find satisfaction in performing well, then the result of that sales call doesn’t have such a high impact. The result doesn’t carry ALL of the weight in terms of emotional payoff. The real gem of this practice is apparent when we understand that in its essence, we are attempting to move our satisfaction into the realm of things we can control instead of being at the whim of fate.
In the end, the intense drama that expectation can create is a form of stress that has deep and wide implications for our health and our relationships.