Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Expectations

~Expectation is the mother of disappointment but it's also the breeder of joy. Don't kill the mother--discipline the child.~

When I was younger, as with all children, I faced many disappointments. These disappointments generally ranged from not being able to play video games, being required to do my homework, being stuck at a table until I finished my dinner, and so on. But there were also disappointments from unfulfilled expectations such as weather or sickness preventing a trip or a parent promising to do something and not following through. As an adult, my expectations often revolve around what I think someone else ought be doing and this leads to the greatest disappointments of all--especially when I'm foolish enough to expect my children to do something as simple as cleaning their room the first time I tell them.

While expectations often lead to a multitude of disappointments, anticipating something is often more rewarding than the outcome itself. Repetition is often fun for children because they learn to anticipate what will happen next. As adults, we tend to receive joy from expecting something in a new movie and finding out if we were right or wrong. We might anticipate a soccer goal and expect it to occur only to be immediately shocked that something went wrong. In these events, the failed expectation is often even more exciting since it was so contrary to what we believed. It's a sort of irony. In "Reality is Broken," Jane McGonigal explains how outlandish failure in video games is far more entertaining than when we succeed. It's the anticipation of success, the expectation it will succeed, and the abrupt failure exploding in our face that gets our blood flowing (and sometimes boiling).

You see, it's not that expectations themselves are bad. In fact, they are quite good! There are things we should learn to never expect and there are things that we may expect only to be let down, but it's how we deal with the expectations that matter. Children tend to cry and get angry when their expectations aren't met even in failing at a video game. Yet another response is to see it as a challenge. To recognize it as an unexpected event to overcome.

The disappointments in my life led me to shut out much of expectation all together. I have a hard time anticipating something to succeed which removes my motivation to try. I tend to expect little from anyone which makes me enjoy them less and mistrust them. My shutting out of expectations has led to a bland and boring life. It promises to remove disappointment, but it really only changes the expectation from a positive one to a negative one. I don't fall as far when my lack of expectation proves valid, but I rarely climb out of my pit of negativity. So don't neglect anticipation. Don't forget the excitement of expectation. Simply learn to deal with failed expectations in a positive way and let it fuel you to press on and expect something else. It is often quipped that expectation is the mother of disappointment. This may be true. But rather than killing the mother, one ought to discipline the child instead.