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The World of Expectations, Part 1

Expectations- we all have them, whether of ourselves, of others, or of the world and life itself. There’s just no getting around it. Really.

In fact, for the purposes of this conversation, I invite you to consider something. I invite you to come with me as we take a look at ourselves through the view called “human being as expectation.” Sound kind of odd? It’ll be okay, I promise- this is not “the truth.” It’s a view of ourselves (and our work, our lives, etc.) that, when taken, may just provide you with something new; like maybe a new insight into your own performance or experience, or a new opening for action where you didn’t see one before.

See, that’s what we do here- we engage in new (and sometimes counter-intuitive) views such that we’re left with new possibilities, new opportunities and unprecedented and maybe even previously unthinkable results. So again, for the sake of what you’re committed to in your work and your life, I ask you to try this on.

Expect: to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of. (Random House, 2011)

Let’s start right where we are: right here (aren’t we always?). Why are you reading this blog right now? I’d imagine it’s because you think that it may prove valuable to you in some way, yes? So you’re expecting it to be worth investing your time and attention in, right? Great (we share that expectation, by the way).  Or maybe you’re just bored and have some free time at the moment. Even then, can you see that the very fact that your time seems to currently be “free” is a function of how you’re expecting the rest of the day, week, and so forth to go? For instance, if you had a project deadline four hours from now and five hours of work to do to finish, I don’t think that your time would seem so “free”, would it?

My assertion: Take a close look, and I think you’ll find that who you are (your thoughts, feelings and actions) in any given moment is perfectly correlated with the future you’re expecting. Make sense? Please read that statement again. I’m saying that how you are being in any given moment, including how you feel and what you do or don’t do, is perfectly matched with and reflective of the future that you are, in that moment, anticipating. Is that clicking for you? Or maybe it seems very obvious, leaving you wondering, “So what?” That “so what”, that constant and pervasive concern for the future is exactly what we’re pointing to.  And don’t worry, we’re getting to “so what”- but now just notice how you’re now being, and how that is intimately connected with your expectations.

If you take the case I’m making, you may begin to see and/or think about some things in a new way. If you really start to confront the pervasiveness of our expectations’ influence on our everyday, moment-to-moment experience and performance, something new begins to show up.

But for right now, let’s take this from another angle: biology and specifically neurobiology. It could be said that the brain functions as a prediction machine; it’s constantly coordinating behaviors with the rest of the organism (our bodies) to perpetuate its own existence. This is life at its core; biological survival. Through the workings of our nervous system, headquartered in the brain, we use recurrent patterns of action to best survive- let’s say, successfully exist, in our environment moment to moment.  With the development of these constant recurrent adaptations up through the level of thought and knowledge, we are constantly in a process of using our “knowledge” to best respond to our environment in the new situation of every moment. This is the root of our experience. This is the root of expectation.

Is this making sense?

In part two of this blog, we’ll get a different perspective; keeping the biological view in mind, we’ll take a look at how this phenomenon manifests in, affects and even dominates our day to day performance. Looking to philosophy, we could call this a “phenomenological-ontological” perspective: an examination of our moment to moment experience and action, allowing direct insight into “who we are”, really, in the world.  We’ll see our performance, on the court, through this perspective, and from that view I’ll share with you some powerful ways to alter your performance and experience on a day to day basis through distinguishing and powerfully dealing with both our own already-always-there expectations and also those of others. Based on the experience of myself, my colleagues and the many clients with which we’ve done this work, I think you’ll find it to be an extraordinarily valuable exercise.

And for now, I invite you to fully consider what’s been said here, and examine it for yourself, “on the court”. In those projects and commitments that are most important to you, start to get clear for yourself, in an insightfully honest manner, what you and those around you are expecting. What are the ramifications of those expectations? Are they clear? Notice how your thoughts, feelings, actions and results have been and are colored, shaped and even constrained by what you expect and certainly how you react to the expectations (assumed or explicit) of others. Start to explore what’s possible in terms of performance and good old-fashioned peace of mind when you can be fully aware of and responsible for the “network of expectations” in which you operate.

Remember also that this is just how your brain works; this is fundamental to who you are. There’s nothing wrong with having expectations, in fact there’s no way around it. What works is to be clear about them such that you can enable and empower yourself to fulfill on your commitments in every new situation and environment you find yourself in.

As always, have fun with this, and see what you see. We’ll really bring this inquiry home in a couple weeks and until then, we’d love to hear what you’re seeing and dealing with in this arena. Please share, and let us know how we can support you!

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