The single best quote I’ve ever read (I don’t remember the book – sorry!) stated something like this:
“All disappointment in life comes from un-met expectations.”
Read that again.
The more I have reflected on this in relation to experiences I’ve had, it has always held to be true. For example, when I’ve been bummed out about how a day ended because it didn’t end the way I intended. Another time, I was falsely accused about something which resulted in me feeling bitter and angry. Why was I bitter and angry? I did not expect to experience injustice. Another time I freaked out after cutting my thumb with a knife while chopping vegetables. It’s because I didn’t expect that to happen. If I had expected it to happen, it would still hurt, but my emotions and stress around that would be far more composed.
Relationship between Expectancy and Stress
As you already know, then, disappointment results in, to varying levels, stress. To give another simple example – if I expected a C on my final exam and got a B instead then I would be happy about it! But if I expected an A and got that B, I would be stressed [disappointed] about that.
Set Your Intentions
Why am I bringing this concept up? One application of this in our lives, which can greatly shape and reduce our perceived stress, is to set intentions for ourselves. That is, better define what you want to do. With clearer expectations there is less chance you experience disappointment.
To understand this, let’s look at a situation some of us may have experienced before. It’s your day off, and you’re ecstatic about that. You decide, after doing your morning routine and getting ready for the day, to sit down and enjoy your favorite show on Netflix. You have watched two episodes. But also it is a beautiful day — you would like to spend some time outside. The show, however, is really good and you want to watch a third episode. So you do.
Three hours go by…
You finally decide to stop. A glance at the clock and you see it is now 3 pm. You’re thinking, “I just wasted the day.” This is a huge bummer because the very thing you turned to for enjoyment ended up causing you stress and turmoil. Therefore it becomes a disappointment.
Now, let’s rewind the tape and approach the same day with a small twist. It’s your day off. You’re ecstatic about that. You decide, after getting ready for the day that you would like to sit down and enjoy your favorite show on Netflix. However, you also note that it’s beautiful outside and you’d enjoy going for a walk. Additionally, you know that there are a couple of things to get done that would feel good to get out of the way. Accordingly, you decide you will enjoy Netflix for three hours until 3 pm. You know this will still give you enough time to get everything else done you want to do. So, you enjoy your Netflix. Then 3 pm rolls around. You feel great – it was a fun time indulging a bit in your favorite show, but you’re not taken off guard.
Each of these scenarios ended with the same outward result, but drastically different mental/internal result. The only difference was the second scenario took a minute or two to think ahead and set an intention. Therefore, the day played out to your expectations and you feel much better about it – and less stressed.
What are ways you could assess your day-to-day, and take a moment to set your intentions?
Lead health coach Dan Tribley
EPIC Functional Medicine