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The different types of expectations we feed end up shaping our world. As J.K. Rowling said: “We see what we want to see”. The problem begins when our expectations stray too far from reality, when what we hope and desire is not fulfilled. Then a state marked by frustration, anger and/or discouragement inevitably ensues.
The different types of expectations
Expectations are nothing more than assumptions we make for the future, anticipations of what could happen based on a series of subjective and objective aspects. The problem is that subjective aspects often tip the balance too much and our expectations become unrealistic or even irrational.
On the contrary, being able to understand the different types of expectations we feed will allow us to level them, so that they are more in line with reality. That does not mean resigning or stop dreaming, but just keeping our feet on the ground, to avoid a painful fall that causes us deep and difficult wounds to heal.
1. Predictive expectations
When we feed these kinds of expectations, we think we know what will happen during our experiences, for example, if we go on a date or a job interview, we imagine what will happen during that meeting. It is, therefore, a recreation of a future experience in our mind, waiting for it to happen that way and not another.
Generally these expectations are based on our previous experiences or on the experiences of close people. If a coworker has always been kind to us, we hope he will do us the favor we will ask him. However, they also imply an expectation about our mood, imagining how happy or sad we will feel in a certain situation.
2. Normative expectations
These kinds of expectations are based on what we assume as the norm. We all know and share certain values and norms at the social level, so that we develop a series of expectations based on them. We hope, for example, that a person does not throw the cigarette butt on the ground or that a public official behaves kindly towards us to help us solve the problem.
These expectations refer to a basic standard of behavior that we expect from others in different social situations. We don’t expect someone to hit us on the street for no reason because there are certain rules that allow us to guess how others will behave.
3. Deserved expectations
This type of expectations is perhaps the most subjective of all that we can have since it is based on what we believe we deserve. For example, if we believe that we are the best employee of the company, we will hope that the next promotion is ours. It is, therefore, an expectation based on our idea of justice.
We believe that we are worthy of something, be it for our performance, qualities or capabilities. And we assume that something must happen just because we believe it is fair or that we are worthy of it. It is the feeling that we have a right to it, above the rest, because in a certain way we have earned it.
The problem is that sometimes our expectations are irrational, largely because we don’t take into account the expectations, desires, and needs of others. And also because we do not include in the equation the unpredictability of the world and the uncertainty that always carries. As a result, we end up outraged or saddened when those expectations we have carefully nurtured have fallen on deaf ears.
The secret? Differentiate anticipation from desire
Our mental balance will benefit if instead of continuing to feed unreal expectations, we are able to differentiate anticipation from desire. The desire for something to happen – or not – often has a deeply subjective basis. We want to avoid everything that displeases or bothers us while we prefer what makes us feel good. It is normal. But feeding expectations solely on the basis of these states of repulsion or attraction will further distance us from reality, condemning us to frustration.
Anticipation, on the contrary, is positive and even necessary for our life. Anticipation is fed by our experiences, but it is also a reasoned process in which we take into account the factors against it. Anticipating what might happen can help us prepare beforehand, so that we avoid problems and conflicts.
We just have to make sure that that anticipation comes from a weighted analysis of the situation. Desire will influence. Definitely. But it’s only one factor in the equation, and it’s often not even the most important one. So the next time we think we deserve something, that people should behave in a certain way, or that things will go as we imagine, we should stop for a second to think whether our expectations are not leading us down the wrong way.