Negativity and the Expectation Gap


*Written on December 24th*

With Christmas only a day away, the majority of us will already be forming expectations of how we expect the next two or three days to pan out, whether those expectations are about how we expect the family to act, what awkward topics of conversation we expect them to raise or even how good/bad/stressful/fun/pleasant/...(insert adjective here)/ we expect the holidays to be. Some of us will also have expectations as to what presents we're going to receive and for the most part this is only going to cause disappointment. In fact expectation itself tends to lead to disappointment and this brings me on to the idea of the expectation gap. As you can imagine the expectation is just the gap between our expectation and the eventual reality. When our expectations are lower than the eventual outcome we are pleasantly surprised but when the expectations are higher than the outcome, we become disappointed. If we have the highest of expectations we can only be disappointed, if we expect the worst we can only be happy and if our expectations are in line with reality we will be content (although we don't know what reality is until it happens so there's a risk here that it can go either way). For example, if people had overhyped The Force Awakens and you expected it to be the best movie of all time, you'd probably end up slightly disappointed but if you expected it to be dreadful and you only went to please a friend or partner then the chances are your mind will be blown and you'll have a fantastic time. This is the key to happiness and expectation, aim low. However, one caveat I will mention is pessimism. When people expect things to be dreadful it can be pretty easy to come across as a pessimistic grinch and we don't want that! We have to remember to remain open minded with reality and don't allow our negative expectations and stubbornness to prevent how we actually see the event. I guess a better way of explaining it would be to say "prepare for the worst and see what happens"

Side note: I know how much fun it can be to get over hyped and excited for something's, it's great fun. You just had to spend about ten minutes with me in the days before Star Wars and you would have realised how excited I was. It adds to the fun. So how didI apply this idea of expectation management you ask? Well I got incredibly excited until about an hour before where I mentally prepared myself for what would happen if it absolutely tanked. Luckily for all us JJ did a fantastic job. (It was also less of a risk to get hyped over Star Wars due to the great words we were hearing from the critics, the cast and the greatness of the trailers, other events aren't so easy to predict and the risk of disappointment becomes greater. For example, I don't ever go into watching an Arsenal game with the expectation that we will win, that's just far to unpredictable)

If you do find yourself disappointed over the coming few days just do one thing, be grateful. Find absolutely anything and everything to be thankful for about the situation. Whenever we are in a state of true gratitude, all other negative emotions fly out the window.

So remember breathe deep, shine bright and stay grateful.