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The World of Expectations, Part 2

(This is the second part of a three-part series; if you haven’t already, I recommend that you read the first part to set the context for yourself)

Welcome back. In this part of our exploration of the world of expectations, we will take a look at how our overall performance and experience are shaped and constrained by what we expect, and then look to see what will allow us to restore and elevate our effectiveness and results. And again, this is not The Truth or something to be believed, but something to consider. For when we see something from a new perspective, we give ourselves new opportunities for action, new ways to be and a whole new experience.

In last month’s newsletter we looked at ourselves and started to get an idea of the degree to which how we see the world, and in fact how we are (think, feel, act) in the world, is colored and influenced by our expectations. Let’s revisit this once more from the view of neurobiology. Consider this: If visual sensations were primarily received rather than constructed by the brain, you’d expect that most of the fibers going to the brain’s primary visual cortex would come from the retina. Instead, scientists have found that only twenty per cent do; eighty per cent come downward from regions of the brain governing functions like memory.

In fact, Richard Gregory, a prominent British neuropsychologist, estimates that visual perception is more than ninety per cent memory and less than ten per cent sensory nerve signals.

Are you starting to get this?

We don’t “see” with our eyes. We “see” with our brain. What we “see” is almost totally constructed from what we have seen and what we expect to see. We think and act as if we’re “perceiving” something “out there”, and reacting accordingly, right? It’s just not the case. Our expectations don’t just influence our “response to what’s happening”, they create the “happening” that we’re “responding to”. The same goes for the other senses, and, by extension, listening (as distinct from just hearing). The way that a situation (and “the world”) occurs for us, and therefore the way we act “in response” to that occurring situation, is wholly a function of the future we expect, which is limited to some variation of what we’ve “experienced” in the past.

What does this actually look like? Well, in sales it could look like this:

I expect Prospect Joe to be evasive and stubborn. I then “experience” him being that way. This “experience” affirms my expectation; it provides evidence for its validity. That strengthened expectation then dictates (or at least shapes and constrains) my next “experience” of Joe, which reinforces the expectation, and so on…

So you see, all my actions and interactions with Joe are with “someone who is and will be evasive and stubborn”, not actually with Joe himself, so that’s what I’ll always end up with. I prove myself right- unfortunately at the cost of the relationship, which of course is critical for the sales process.

Does this hit home at all? Can you see any of your relationships in this situation, be it colleagues, co-workers, bosses or maybe siblings, partners or parents?

It’s a vicious circle, and the further inside it you are, the further away you are from what’s actually happening, from any real connection with that person, from having any opportunity to make a difference in the situation.

And I know that you’re someone who, no kidding, wants to make a difference. That’s why you’re reading this. So I invite you to take a real look at any situations or relationships where you’ve been ineffective, disempowered or upset persistently over time, and, on paper or screen, answer for yourself the following questions:

  • What do I “know” about how this situation/relationship “is”?
  • How do I already “know” it’s going to go?

Be honest! No positive thinking allowed- what will work here is for you to be totally, insightfully honest about the way this situation occurs for you. Get it all up and onto the page.

When you’ve done that, step back and look over what’s there. Is that it? Good.

In front of you should be the whole world of that situation; how it is, how it will be and why.

Now, ask yourself, what if that’s not necessarily true? If my experience of the situation has been colored and reinforced by my own undistinguished expectations, and isn’t necessarily actually reflective of anything else except my expectations, what else could be possible? If that person isn’t necessarily actually “that way” (regardless of how much “evidence” I think I’ve built up to justify myself), how could I now interact with them? What actions could I take? If I took responsibility for my own expectations, what would there possibly be to be upset about? Who has all the power here?

If you really engage with this exercise, I think you’ll discover and generate some very intriguing and powerful insights into those areas where you’re committed to big things but have had less-than-optimal results. More importantly, if you actually take action on what you see, you’ll impact those results in ways you seriously can’t imagine. Please respond and let us know how it goes, and of course how we can support you.

In Part Three, we will see the crucial, even integral, role that the expectations of others play in our very opportunity to perform. This is a conversation that has made an unbelievable difference in the results and experience of everyone with whom I’ve had it.

Until then, have fun, play big and please be in communication!

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