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The Power of Expectation

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“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” – Oprah Winfrey

Photo by Jonathan Sebastiao on Unsplash

What do you expect from the world? And do you have your expectations dashed time and time again? I would argue that you always get what you expect, but you don’t always see the aspirations you hold for yourself and others fulfilled. What’s the difference?

The definition for expectation is “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.”

The definition of aspiration is “a hope or ambition of achieving something.”

Glimpse your future

Want a glimpse into your future? Figure out what you expect to happen. While it’s true that random events can happen that can change your life in an instant, barring that, your expectations create the efficient life you live everyday.

You expect that particular Starbucks to come up on your right on your drive to work. You expect the shoes you bought last week to fit you today. You expect a strawberry to taste like one when you bite into it. 

So what are you expecting that is creating a life or world you don’t want?

I ask this because I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about expectation and race in our society. I started asking myself some questions regarding my expectations about black Americans.

How do I expect black people to act?

Where do I expect black people to work?

When do I expect to see black people in TV commercials?

And in what scenarios does seeing, hearing, or interacting with a black person not fit into my expectations?

Asking these questions has really opened my eyes to how entrenched and systemic racism is, and how powerful expectation can be in creating very tight parameters in society.

If we only expect black Americans to be working in the fast-food service industry, janitorial industry, lower paying clerical industry and the like, then the white minds that are in the position of power will only allow black people to succeed as far as their expectations allow. 

Kind of messed up, huh?

Changing expectation is uncomfortable

This same principal can be applied to so many areas of a human life. When you start to dig into the expectations about any area of your life, you start to see the patterned programming that’s keeping your life locked into what it currently is. 

It’s uncomfortable for a brain to let go of or change expectations, because expectations allow a brain to try and predict the future. Brains love doing this. Not being able to predict what is coming up is comparable to walking into a pitch black cave, with growling noises coming out of it.

But what if once in that cave, the growling was actually a babbling brook, and there were treasures beyond your wildest dreams? You would have never known had you only been guided by your expectations.

And no, I’m not telling you to walk into a pitch black cave with growling animals. That was a metaphor. But hopefully it illustrates the point of how confining expectations can be.

How to change expectations

So, how do we change our expectations?

1. Name what you want to change. Where are things “going wrong”? What are you confused about in your life? Asking these questions may help you get to the bottom of some expectations you have about some area in your life that keeps creating something you don’t want.

2. Identify your current expectations. When you name what you want to change, ask what you are expecting in regards to that thing. You may have to play with that question. For example, I currently am taking the deep dive about racism, looking at my own expectations around black people in America, and how those expectations cause me to limit opportunities in my mind for black people. One of the questions I asked myself was “Where do I expect to see black people working in America?” The answer was very enlightening.

3. Create your new expectation. Unfortunately, your subconscious mind won’t just buy into a new expectation. Your current expectations have been in use for a very long time. But the more you harness the power of thought and remind your brain about that new expectation, the more you are priming your brain to entertain the possibility of the new expectation to eventually become reality.

4. Use emotion to drive action. Emotion is the chemical translation of thought in your body, and it communicates to your nervous system what actions to take that support your thought. Heightened emotion signals your brain that a certain thought is extra important. If you take the time daily to do some deep visualization around your new expectations, and work up corresponding emotion in your body, your brain will start to be convinced of the utility of those new expectations. Emotion triggers a chemical in your brain that stimulates neural growth, if the emotion is communicating that the thought is important enough to remember.

That’s it. The steps are fairly clear, but doing the work to actually move into new expectation can be long and arduous. But it is the path to unlocking your current reality, and shifting it into something different.

Take a look at your expectations. It’s not always pleasant, and can uncover some comfortable truths, but for a life experience changed for the better, it is work well worth it.

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