Congratulations! Welcome to a new post! You must be thinking: – Of course! What a silly observation! – Are you sure? Have you ever stopped to think of the reasons why you like a book? Why do some of them keep you reading from beginning to end? Is it the cover, the introduction, the author? There can be many answers. Some readers may also influence other readers. Then there are some people who are so busy they never open a book. There are also people who feel obliged to read a book until the end, even if it bores them to death.

Let me raise the following question: What is it that makes you go on reading this post? Take your time to answer sincerely. As you know, there can be several different answers, such as: I had nothing better to read, or I was bored, or someone told me I’d love this post. Again, it’s only your answer that matters. It’s important to keep your answer inside your head until the end of this post.

What’s the proper meaning of the concept of expectations and how do we control these expectations? In order to find the answer we could look the word up in a dictionary, or we could look it up on the Internet, but it’s always better if we use an example.

Imagine a hot summer day; the kind of day where you can’t stop drinking cold water. Once you have run out of water, you go into a shop to buy a bottle of water. There’s a sign in the shop that says: “Large bottle of water, 1 dollar.”

You ask the shopkeeper for a large bottle. Well, what do you know? The problem has begun and it’s possible that you haven’t even realized. What is the exact meaning of “large?” Does it mean the same thing to the shopkeeper as it does to you? It’s only an example but for me, a large bottle is a 1-liter bottle.

There are now three possible options regarding your hypothetical situation: –

  1. The shopkeeper gives you a 1-liter bottle; you pay for it and leave the shop with no problem. It’s been easy and you don’t dwell on it since it’s an ordinary event that you’ve carried out unconsciously.
  2. Now, suppose that you’re given a bottle containing only half a liter. The shopkeeper sees that you’re disappointed, and he reluctantly says: It’s the biggest bottle we have in the shop! Moreover, he seems to be thinking: If you don’t like it, you know where the door is. In this case, the action of buying a bottle is taken to the conscious mind: you’ve been given less quantity than you expected. You try to find a solution. If you really want to drink one liter of water, you could buy two half-liter bottles; or you may consider half a liter to be enough water. It was an easy solution this time, but subconsciously it makes you think: The shopkeeper doesn’t have a clue as to what a large bottle is. Or: I was right when I thought that a large bottle couldn’t be so cheap. Has this ever happened to you?
  3. What happens if you’re given a 5-liter bottle? You’d obviously be surprised, since a bottle containing five liters of water for just 1 dollar is a bargain. The purchasing process again comes to the conscious mind. You would be thinking: Who knows where this water comes from? I’m sure they refill the bottles, or How cheap! Is everything so cheap in here? There’s no doubt that you’ll buy the bottle, but you’ll continue to think about it since it wasn’t what you were expecting. What strikes you the most is what the shopkeeper considers to be big, you consider to be gigantic. You might even feel silly for not having understood what the sign meant. In any event, you take the bottle and happily leave, even though some time later you may not know what to do with so much water.

Having seen this simple example, can you think of a way of avoiding all this chaos? It’s simple, the sign should have read: “1 liter of water for 1 dollar.” Your expectations would have been met (without considering the brand of water). You would have unconsciously bought the bottle and walked away with no problem.

Can you now see the importance of expectations? When you think about buying something, you expect to find the product you have in mind; no more, no less. How many times have you been surprised at a restaurant when you were served a dish that didn’t fulfill your expectations in terms of quantity? How do you feel when someone says they’re in love with you and then two days later he or she breaks up with you?

Our ability to create expectations is surprising. It works like a locomotive: if it’s properly maintained it will take you far at high speed. If, on the other hand, it’s poorly maintained, it will often cause many frustrations even though we don’t know why.

The idea I’d like to communicate here is that establishing a suitable range of expectations is a key element for reducing frustrations. Do you remember the question at the beginning of the post? It was: What is it that makes you read this second post? Well, there was a moment in which you created your expectations about this post. If someone told you that this was the best author you could find -and you didn’t agree after read “10 rules of an incompetent professional” – you may have stopped reading. However, if you weren’t expecting anything special, because you were bored, surely you’re still reading it.

Expectations have advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, they guide your life because they encourage you to fight for what you believe in and what you want. On the other hand, they can also make you feel anxious and empty if you haven’t achieved them all.

This, in turn, makes you create new expectations which, in some cases, are like adhesive bandages. Does a bandage heal a wound? Or does it simply cover it up? You create new expectations in order to fill that emptiness. It’s a common mental procedure used to cover up deficiencies. You may feel frustration, pain and suffering when your expectations are not fulfilled. How can we get out of this vicious circle? It’s not easy, but the best way is to be in the “here and now.”

Useful advice to take into account:

  • A good method you can use to avoid feeling frustrated consists of not creating high expectations. For example, if you attend a course without any expectations you’ll probably enjoy it more. The course might have been useless, but you’re not aware of it
  • Instead of getting rid of expectations it would be more interesting to observe those that you have. What are your expectations concerning your new job? And concerning that house you’re moving into? And concerning your partner (the one you’ll marry someday)? I suggest you think about your expectations before going any further. When you finish an activity it’s also advisable to check to see if your expectations were fulfilled. The point is to be conscious of these things.
  • Be careful not to establish extremely high expectations, since there will be a greater chance of feeling frustrated and stressed out. Suppose you want to buy a toy that’s fun, educational, inexpensive, easy to clean and small. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist, but aren’t you expecting too much from a toy?
  • When you don’t know that much about something, you shouldn’t expect too much from it. For example, how did you envision your first sexual relationship? Was it perfect and marvelous? It’s unfortunate that nobody teaches us to minimize our expectations regarding such important issues. It would avoid unnecessary disappointments.

Original Spanish version “Las Expectativas“.

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