Should we have high expectations for life?

There have been a few instances recently which have made me think a lot about the expectations we have in our lives. I wouldn’t say this is something I have just learnt, it just seemed the right time to consolidate and clarify my ideas.

Goals ≠ Expectations

To begin, I believe it’s important to differentiate between goals and expectations. They are not the same thing! This seems obvious to me, but I think it needs to be said. Yes, you should work hard to achieve your goals, but there are so many different ways to get to where you want to be. Don’t let the small things get you down, because in a day, a week, a year from now, they won’t matter. Let the things that fill your life be positive. If things don’t go the way you expected them to, then it wasn’t meant to be. A lot of difficult situations open themselves up to opportunities after all!

You should have as many goals as you wish, big or small. Work hard to achieve what you want! No one is going to do it for you. Having said this, if you have high expectations on how you should be rewarded for your hard work that’s when you will end up having a bad time. There are so many possibilities in life!

A wise worm once said “Things are not always what they seem in this place, so you can’t take anything for granted” (Labyrinth, 1986)*. ‘Taken for granted’ means to take something literally, or at face value without question. More often, this is used as an extension to undervaluing a person or object without appreciation (Lee, 2015).

In a sense, this digresses from the main point I wish to make… but I believe when someone has high expectations, the danger is to slip into taking a situation for granted. When you attempt to predict the outcomes of the future with no regard for other possibilities, you could easily set yourself up for disappointment. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen a few times recently, and it’s heart-breaking watching people set themselves up for a fall.

If I got everything I wanted, I could be a failed psychology student, I would probably have dropped out of university, I might be working in an office, or living in another country. The point is, life is not a one track ride, and just because you desperately want to do something, or be something, or go somewhere doesn’t mean you will want to later in life, and the disappointment that comes from not getting what you want often isn’t worth it. Of course you are allowed to be sad and disappointed about tough situations but don’t take a situation for granted.

Confidence

I wanted to understand why a person might have higher expectations of a situation, compared to others. There’s nothing wrong with being confident. From a young age we are taught to be strong confident individuals. Confidence is seen in popular culture as an admirable quality, but when confidence turns to arrogance, there is a completely different connotation. The difficulty comes when attempting to get the balance of confidence right.

At this point, it is necessary to explain what is meant by the word arrogance. “Arrogance is engaging in behaviors [sic] intended to exaggerate a person’s sense of superiority by disparaging others… Despite the apparent confidence of those engaging in arrogant behavior [sic], research suggests that it is actually a defensive display occurring partially in response to low self-confidence” (Johnson et al., 2010). So this paper suggests that what appears on the surface as inflated self-confidence, is in fact the exact opposite.

Confidence is simply a factual and reality-driven belief about ability or standing, whereas arrogance is inflation of an individual’s self-importance intended to make others feel inferior (Silverman et al., 2012). So people with more self-confidence are actually less likely to take a situation for granted.

Assumption

Moving on, I believe there is another factor, other than arrogance that can lead to having high expectations of a situation. When a person has a few facts on a situation, there is a danger of neglecting the whole picture. This may initially be due to miscommunication or just assumption that the situation will go the way you want it to, without being mindful to other possibilities. As humans, we tend to get comfortable in our mind-set and don’t ask the right questions to get the answers we want. Consequently we don’t get the full picture and summarise the information we have because it’s what we want to hear.

So, to the whole point of this blog: Should we have high expectations for life? The short answer is no, but to extend this, I think we can hold our expectations wherever we want. The danger in assuming things will go our way or just taking the whole situation for granted is that we are completely blind-sided and left deflated after unexpected events. Having said this, I think sometimes we need to be knocked down so we can get back up, dust ourselves off and ask, so where am I going now?

Pivotal moments in my life can be characterised by the difficulties I have faced, and I must say, I am really grateful to all of them. I will deal with situations as they come, and try not to bulldoze my way through them.

It has become a custom to thank you for reading this far. I am really lucky to have a platform to ramble on about things that are rattling away in my head. I’m also thinking of making a tagline to end my blogs, but haven’t developed one I like yet. Anyway, thank you so much for your time.

*Labyrinth is my favourite film, and if you haven’t seen it, you really should. The volume of artistic talent and life lessons in that film are outstanding, even if it is an 80’s kids film!

Johnson, R. E., Silverman, S. B., et. al. (2010). Acting superior but actually inferior?: Correlates and consequences of workplace arrogance. Human Performance, 23, pp.403–427

Lee, R. C. (2015) What does “taken for granted” mean? Quora digest, available at https://www.quora.com/What-does-taken-for-granted-mean

Silverman, S. B., Johnson, R. E. et. al. (2012) Arrogance: A formula for leadership failure. The Industrial Organizational Psychologist, 50, pp.26-28

 

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