Expectations are the source of disappointment.
This one-line piece of advice is one of the pieces of wisdom in my forthcoming book, Straight from the Investor’s Mouth, and rings true beyond just for entrepreneurs.
Recently I met someone who reiterated the impact of expectations and further encouraged me to not have expectations. He inspired me to think further about a life without expectations. When we have expectations we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. A recent blog post mentioned that my generation is unhappy because our happiness is a factor of our reality minus expectations, and when expectations are high and reality doesn’t match up, our happiness is low.
Think about it…
If you are training for a half marathon and you expect your time to be 2 hours and then you end up coming to the finish line at 2 and a half hours, your expectations are not met. That creates disappointment.
Or maybe you just shared your company with an investor and expect the investor to invest in your company. Then, you get the popular “we’re not interested at this time” and do not raise capital from that investor. Would your reaction to that response be different had you no expectations?
Say you meet an amazing guy (or gal) that you totally hit it off with and you develop expectations that he/she will ask you on a date. And then they don’t. Lame. You’re disappointed (or if you’re like me you just ask the guy out instead . Take the reverse: you have no expectations. Then, when something great happens and you get asked on that date, you are pleasantly surprised and it’s much more satisfying.
Expectations take time. They take emotional energy.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t have goals or expectations. Goals are good and expectations have their benefits. A goal to run a half marathon in 2 hours provides a north star for training and discipline to reach that goal. Expectations can inspire us to work hard to make those expectations more closely aligned with reality. By definition a “goal” is “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed” and “expectation” is “the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.” We can have goals without expectations and have expectations without goals. The former will motivate us. The latter will disappoint us. By putting effort into achieving goals we are working toward a specific outcome. With expectations, we are hoping for a specific outcome. Hope is not typically a successful strategy.
A goal to complete a half marathon in less than 2 hours is different than expecting to finish a half marathon in less than 2 hours. With the goal, we can now work backwards to take the necessary steps to working towards achieving that goal. If we train and prepare to achieve that goal, we are more likely to run the half marathon in less than 2 hours.
Personally, I struggle to not have expectations. It’s hard. I’m usually thinking 2 or 3 steps ahead. Going through scenarios in my head, planning for how I’ll react in various situations. Creating expectations and figuring out how I’ll respond when those expectations are (or aren’t met). I’m making a conscious effort to reduce my expectations. I’m curious to see how it impacts my happiness, relationships, work, and life in general.
Do you have expectations? For what? Do you need them? What would your life be like without expectations?
mel, the venture gal