In my previous post I told you that I try not to expect: not to expect a party to be cooler than being photobombed by The Rock (that’s not me by the way), not to expect the sun to shine at a beach BBQ and not to expect the pool of that adorable holiday home to actually contain water and not dry leaves.
But the thing is life depends on expectation. We anticipate to survive: you expect a door to open when pushing down the handle, you expect a bridge to hold your weight (unless you’re in India) and you expect that stepping on the break pedal will stop your car (again, except when you’re in India**).
Forget about exterior factors
What if I told you that expectations can be used to influence your future in a positive way. “Wait a minute” I hear you thinking, “what about setting yourself up for disappointment?”
If you look at that previous post, you’ll notice that my expectations concerned a lot of things I had no control over: I expected the object of my obse.. affection to be at a party, my guests to appreciate Bell Biv Devoe (still don’t understand what happened there) and the weather to cooperate (only the Russians have succeeded in making the weather to do as it was told. But then they’re the Russians). But if you forget about all those exterior factors, there is a way to actually use expectations to influence the future in a positive way!
Entering a room sweaty-palmed
Have you ever gone to a birthday bash where you didn’t know anybody, entering the room sweaty-palmed, worried that nobody would talk you? Clinging to the host, the only familiar face, like a drowning victim to a life raft? And after said host fled to the toilet never to be seen again, you preoccupied yourself with the snack table, studying the offered refreshments very minutely before slipping away casually without having spoken to a single other person? (just a random example ;-)
This is a classic case of that old devil called self-fulfilling prophecy: you feel self-conscious about going to a party by yourself, afraid you’ll end up looking more lost than a Trekkie at a Kardashians’ banquet. Your sweaty-palmed attitude and overall awkwardness making a leper look more approachable than you, thus causing your doubts and fears to come true.
Fake it ’til you make it
Instead, if you had believed that you would have a good time no matter what, If you had actually had faith that you would make new friends and enjoy yourself, you would have been open and outgoing and probably would have actually met new people.
It’s all about confidence, being convinced something will work. And by thinking this, you’ll behave like it’s already true, making it more probable it will become reality.
“Well that’s just brilliant” you say, “but I don’t have that confidence.” Well, then you could try this old tactic known as ‘fake it ’til you make it’: even if you don’t feel it you can act like you are confident (happy/flexible/a great cook), get positive feedback and strengthen yourself in becoming so. It’s a tried and successful technique in battling depression. (And also firmly embraced by the AA).
Positive towards strangers
Self-fulfilling prophecy is a powerful force to be reckoned with and can start early in life. In his book ‘Nurturing Natures‘ Graham Music gives a great example: if you have parents who used to smile when they saw you, you start expecting other people to be friendly as well and very likely you (unconsciously) behave more positively towards strangers, causing them to be more sociable towards you. Though I hope your mom told you never to accept candy from them.
Reality is formed by your expectations
The opposite is true as well: if your parents spent more time in front of the telly or in the pub than with you, you might start to expect people aren’t interested in you, causing you to act like a loner making it less likely that people will interact with you. Your reality is formed by your expectations.
In short: expecting good things can actually bring you good things. But just don’t start expecting your date to pick you up in a Lamborghini.
So if you’re meeting your in-laws for the first time, have confidence. Just think that it’ll go well, be open and trust yourself that you’ll pull this off. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll muck it up, but also be careful with picturing yourself already on fishing trips with pops, cracking jokes in front of the fire wearing matching robes. They’re both false visualisations of the future (and in the case of matching robes, I hope they stay false). Just trust yourself and you’ll be easy-going, open and your in-laws will react to your relaxed self in a positive way. Unless you’re dating Maria or Katerina Putin.
Accept bigger challenges
It does take practice to have positive expectations, but repeating them to yourself will help make them stick. There are a few good things to gain here:
1. When learning new things you realise that you can accomplish your goal by practising and not throw in the towel at the first set-back (I definitely have to remember this one).
2. You’ll accept bigger challenges because you know you can get better with practice. If it doesn’t happen straight away you recognise that it’s not because you can’t do it, but that you will have to work at it a little more.
Now go and start shaping your future.
Watch a great TED talk about faking it til you make it.
** A post about what traveling in India does to your friendly demeanour is coming up in a few weeks.
This post was inspired by the article “How expectations guide our lives” by Edwin Oden published (on paper!) in Psychologie Magazine in January 2015 (original title “Hoe verwachtingen ons leven sturen” (As you might have gathered, you have to be able to read Dutch to appreciate it. Or you can just look at the pictures).