Several weeks ago, I went skydiving. It’s been on my to-do list for some time (as you might remember, I like trying new things).
I was expecting a lot – too much, perhaps. And after jumping out of the plane, plummeting towards the Earth and then floating down via parachute, I was left feeling a little underwhelmed.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad that I did it, but it didn’t turn out to be as great as I had thought it would be. I had expected skydiving to be “awesome”, which so many other people had told me it was. What I realised is that what other people define as “awesome” is not necessarily the same as what I do. To me, “awesome” means mind-blowing, crazy, way-out-there kind of stuff. Sky diving turned out to be a bit too predictable.
A similar effect applies to our evaluations of movies. For example, sometimes your friends or the critics will rate a new movie as “fantastic”. You hear lots of good things about it. The movie then gets hyped up and by the time you see it, it wasn’t the heart-stopping experience you had expected. Or conversely, sometimes you know absolutely nothing about a movie before seeing it and it turns out to be great.
To me, these are examples of when our expectations get set too high. Then, when reality fails to match them we are disappointed. But if we take the view that we should always expect the worst and then be pleasantly surprised, we turn cynical and negative, always forecasting the worst and focusing on the negatives (hint: most people don’t like hanging around negative people for long).
We have expectations for all kinds of things – careers, relationships, change in general – and if we’re not careful, we can often be disappointed, like I was with skydiving. When life regularly doesn’t live up to expectations, it can be a major source of unhappiness.
Try managing your own expectations. When you catch yourself thinking about how good or bad something is going to be, stop yourself and question those thoughts. Are they accurate? Or are you building yourself up too much? Bring yourself back to living in the moment and experience your senses themselves, not your idea of how the future will be.
It’s not real until it’s real.