Expectations are often mistook for goals or ambitious drive, but expectations can be considered the most dangerous of the three.

When you watch a classic hero movie, there is always some tall, dark-haired, British man playing the villain and he is always being accused of having too much ambition, though not always explicitly. The problem with too much ambition is that you are likely to do anything to achieve what you want to. The thing is, normal people do not have a problem with having too much ambition. Normal people do not murder the competition to get ahead. They don’t cheat extensively and they don’t creep around in the dark consorting with demons and casting spells.

Having too many goals is also not a huge problem. People are good at prioritizing (usually) and they normally focus on the goals that are most important to them at the time. If a person has too many goals, they may become frenzied or depressed or, heaven forbid, they get smart and make a plan in order to accomplish their goals.

The thing that makes expectations so dangerous is how it shapes our potential reactions to outcomes. Every person has a tendency toward some sort of reaction. Some people get angry, or sad, and some people are motivated to become better. This doesn’t mean that they will always react this way to every situation that occurs, but it does mean that they are more likely to react this way when they are faced with a situation that they’ve anticipated incorrectly.

Our ability to perceive and react to what we see within small amounts of time is decreased when we being to anticipate.  Of course, this isn’t always a problem. When we anticipate a problem and then act accordingly, we may very well be able to influence a situation the way we want. Our brains are highly efficient and will develop many different pre-programmed reactions in order to save brain power and increase the likelihood that a situation will turn out in our favor.

Unfortunately, future-telling isn’t as easy as it would seem to be. Sometimes our pre-programmed reactions aren’t sufficient for the situation. For example, in a game of dodge-ball (we humans and our clever names for things), there are times when you jump in the wrong direction without thinking, even though you know that you can’t avoid the ball flying toward you.

When you develop expectations for a certain event, you begin the process of planning your reaction to it. This has happened to me many times, the most memorable of which was in the fifth grade when a friend and I entered a video-making contest that had only one other person entering it. We expected to do well, if not win, accounting for the lack of people in the contest. However, we were completely ignored and didn’t even get an honorable mention. Naturally we were disappointed and even a little outraged. I still am.

However, there have been situations I’ve entered into with no expectations at all (or at least very low ones) and the outcome pleased me exceedingly.

Though I don’t advise having no expectations (which is very hard to do anyway), I would advise against having high expectations. Our expectations can either protect us from making terrible choices or they can keep us from making good decisions and benefiting from proper reactions.

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