Have you ever entered a theater to see a movie or play that was really over-hyped, only to later be let down because it didn’t meet your expectations? What about when you saw that other movie or play that you knew nothing about, but ended up leaving pleasantly surprised?
This is just one example of how our expectations (or lack of) can play a significant role in what we take away from our experiences.
Richard Bandler once said, “disappointment requires adequate planning.” And I think he touched on a really important truth about the downfalls of having certain expectations about life.
Because when you really think about it, we can only be disappointed or dissatisfied with something if we go into that experience with a prior judgment of what that experience “should” be like.
If we don’t expect to get anything for our birthday, but we end up getting a new car, we will usually be really happy with it regardless of what kind of car it is. But if we expect to get an expensive sports car, but instead get a minivan, we are probably going to be much less satisfied with the outcome.
When you go into some situations with no expectations, then it’s impossible for you to be let down. And, at best, you actually end up walking away pleasantly surprised.
But we shouldn’t get rid of ALL expectations.
I definitely can’t say that we should get rid of all expectations. Expectations can be good and useful, and it’s important to have some expectations before entering certain situations.
For example, if we expect there to be a final exam on a certain date, then we should plan on it by studying and making sure we are as prepared as possible.
Projecting into the future and determining what to expect can be an important tool in preparing for certain situations – just not all situations.
I just wanted to get this quick caveat out of the way before diving more into the “power of no expectations.”
The Benefits of No Expectations.
In many situations, going in with no expectations (or at least very low expectations), can greatly benefit us. Some of the things I find the “no expectations” mindset helps us cultivate include:
If we go into a situation, such as meeting a new person, with a certain prejudice on how that person should be (especially if it is based on stereotypes involving race, gender, religion, career, etc.), then we are already putting limitations on how we connect with that person.
However, if we decide to meet a new person without prior expectations or judgment, then we are much more open to receiving that person for who they really are, and therefore not letting our prior thoughts muddle the interaction.
From my experience, I’ve found the “no expectations” route is one of the best ways to meet new people.
When we go into a situation with strict expectations and a steadfast guideline for how we expect a situation to unfold, then we greatly limit room for spontaneity. But if we go into a situation with no expectations, we give ourselves the opportunity to act in unexpected ways.
Letting go of expectations is a great way to open up the door to new opportunities. Often our assumptions can narrow our perspective and limit our choices. But when we get rid of these assumptions and unnecessary restrictions, a new perspective and a new flexibility in our thoughts and actions emerges.
Creativity and problem-solving
Just like “no expectations” can open the door to spontaneity, it can also aid in our creativity and problem-solving. This is because when we open up our narrow perspective, we give ourselves room to think of different potential solutions to problems that we may not have been able to think of without first dropping our previous expectations.
All revolutionary problem-solving requires some rebellion against the norms and standards that dictate the status quo.
But we can’t achieve this kind of progress until we first drop all of the unhelpful social norms, stereotypes, and expectations that have been embedded into our brains. In order to first do that, we have to be willing to suspend these unhelpful beliefs.
- In what situations have “no expectations” helped you?
- What tips and strategies do you use to help minimize your expectations more effectively?
Feel free to answer these questions in the comment section below!
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