Expectations are funny things. Often in life we think we don't really know what we expect from any given situation. But generally, our minds have already gone into overdrive when we are awaiting the results of something that could go either way - a job interview for example, or some exam results - and has already decided, deep down, what we expect to happen.
And, here's the rub, our expectations are pretty much always met.
So, does this matter? Well, that all depends on what our expectations are. It depends on our fundamental outlook on life. Because, it is true, you do get what you expect out of life.
You may or may not have heard of a theory called the Law of Attraction, a summary of which is really that what you choose to focus on in your life will come into it. This may sound like a good thing, and if you read to the end of this article, we will try to show you how it can be, but for many people, the trouble is that it can also bring negativity into things as much as positivity.
That's because, when we focus on the negative, when we obsess about all the bad things that could be just around the corner, we end up attracting just those bad things. It's a classic case of the hypochondriac ending up ill through worry.
But it goes deeper than that, because a lot of how we perceive our life boils down to just that; perception. Let's say we are preparing for - dreading - a difficult meeting. This is just a fact of many of our working lives. Often we have to have meetings with people that are going to be difficult. A naturally pessimistic person will have considered all the things that will go wrong, whereas a natural optimist will also (probably) have considered that, but also what they hope will go right. After the meeting has happened, the pessimist will be thinking, "yes, it's as I thought, everything that could have gone wrong, did." Whereas, in contrast, the optimist will think, "well, that could have gone better, but some positives did come out of it."
The meeting in both cases was exactly the same. The difference is purely of perception, for both parties it met expectations, but the pessimist will have come away with a much more negative mindset than the optimist.
The same goes for every decision and every situation that life throws your way. Focus on negativity, on things being likely to go wrong, and you'll allow those thoughts to dominate your mind. You'll get what you expect. But focus on the things you love, and your mind will create more opportunities for you to see those things, and to enjoy them.
One of the main differences between a person with a pessimistic outlook and one whose view on life is more positive is that an optimist, or a positive thinker, has the ability to be pleasantly surprised by things. They allow life to treat them sometimes to the wholly unexpected, and to be delighted by it. Ring up an optimist and ask if they want to go out for a walk right now because the sun is shining and it's Friday, and you'll find they may well make time for it. Because they enjoy the spontaneity. Do the same with a negative person and they will be highly unlikely to find the time. Your phone call wasn't what they were expecting.
As we have talked about in a different blog, negative thinking, and the desire to always expect the worst (so it won't be as bad when it happens, so the theory goes), brings with it an increasing narrowness when it comes to what a person is prepared to do with their life. They start to lose the desire to take risks. They only do what they were expecting to do. They don't develop new interests. They lose their zest for life.
The secret to enjoying life more is to choose to have different expectations. Expect to get that job. Expect to enjoy that party. Expect to manage that tricky day and come out smiling the other side.
That's why elite sports people, or musicians, or any other top-flight performer, are able to do what they do. They expect to win. They expect to perform a great gig. They've put the work in. That's why a top sportsperson is truly gutted when they lose, but part of their brilliance is that they're prepared to make themselves vulnerable in that way, the desire to do what they love is so great. They haven't prepared to lose, so they are heartbroken when they do. But when they look back at their career, they will see victories and failures, and the victories will be just as great.
Life is sweet. It really is. And it's short too. Don't waste it by being negative. Have great expectations, and you'll find yourself rewarded with a great life.
It's just a question of outlook.