Want vs. Expectation
In today's society we are plagued with the thought of tomorrow. We build in our minds a preconceived expectation of what tomorrow will bring. Some call this "setting goals" or "dreams," but really they are the false expectations we map out in our minds as the pathway to success. Before we go too far, I am not saying we should not dream big and make the impossible possible. What I am saying is we allow ourselves to believe that there is a clear cut path that leads us to our future and only one way to reach a destination. We do this unconsciously. I am sure as you read that statement, the logical part of your brain is saying, "That's not true, there are many routes one can take to get anywhere and I am always aware what I am doing."
Now think of this, it is the night before you have to give a really important presentation in front of a group of your peers. You probably took time to plan the events of the next morning and maybe even made a list of what to do: wake up early, shower, get dressed, make breakfast, give yourself chill time to sip coffee and read the newspaper. A great start for a well prepared morning, but here is how it plays out. You find yourself staring at the ceiling wondering why you can get to sleep, after what seems like hours you finally fall asleep. When your alarm goes off you hit the snooze button one too many times and now you're in a panic to get ready. You think to yourself, "No worries I can delete my chill time from the list that will make up for that time spent snoozing." You shower, go to get dressed and the shirt you thought was wrinkle-free looks like you slept with it under your mattress. The quick fix solution runs through your head to throw it in the dryer or steam it in the shower. You choose the dryer. As you push your last two pieces of toast in the toaster the buzzer on the dryer goes off. You run to the dryer expecting success, but the collar of the shirt is all wonky. "AHHHHH!" You scream! You quickly grab the iron, as you kick yourself, knowing you should have went that route in the first place. The shirt is pressed and lookin' good. Just as you are feeling proud of yourself for a job well done, you hear the smoke alarm going off. "THE TOAST!" You run around in a panic not sure what to do, get the burnt toast out of the toast or grab whatever blunt object you can find to destroy that squawking demon that is strategically out of reach. As the smoke and tension settle, you take a breath and quickly collect yourself. You chalk this up as possibly the worst morning ever. You gather your stuff and head out the door with burnt toast in hand with hope that you can salvage some nutrients. You get to you car, turn the key only to hear the battery slowly drain. You throw yourself over the steering wheel in defeat, hearing the last bit of juice leave the battery. "This day might as well be over," passes through your mind. Just then there is a tap on your window you turn to see a neighbor smiling and holding jumper cables. Relief, a break at last: you start your car and speed off to work. Make it just in time to walk in the door and deliver your presentation. Though the whole time you were nervous, but at the end you get a round of applause from your employees and a job well done from your boss.
Now take this example and stretch it across the time line of your life. How often did your expectations get disrupted on the way to achieving your goal? The disruptions or the unforeseen future is just a part of life. You can want something without having expectations. Embracing the struggle in the moment and taking opportunities of learning, is the pathway to overcoming the pain and discomfort that comes from cognitive disruption. Think of it this way: if we are capable of appreciating the derailment of our path in the now and can identify the lessons to be learned we accelerate our growth. If we allow struggles to consume us, we set ourselves back and then only deal with problems in hindsight. We try to pick up the broken pieces later to put them back together. If we allow this to be habit-forming we find ourselves staring down at piles of shattered struggles not know where to even start.
How do we eliminate expectations? We have to be always open to the idea of the unexpected happening. Not in a way of trying to predict what could happen, but a willingness to take in the unexpected and allowing it to affect us in the now. Additionally, understanding our responses to the change can be a way to keep moving forward. This is easier said than done, because our emotional responses to change often get in the way. It takes an extreme amount of discipline to overcome our emotional brain and it is even harder to do if our responses have become habit-forming. The result of reoccurring emotional responses that become sabotaging is called "transference," and can cause negative triggers to occur when someone is confronted with a situation that resembles a negative experience from the past. To avoid this one has to consciously accept their emotions and deal with the moment. Knowing it is okay to be sad, angry, depressed or any number of emotions is crucial. Understanding what will be achieved and how to control your emotional responses in the moment is even better. Feel it, understand it and learn from the emotion. Learn to do this and you will find a fast track your goals.