Do you know the definition of a wealthy person? The answer is indisputable – a person who is satisfied with their lot. Understanding this simple truth is a paradigm shift in both thought and behavior because satisfaction is a matter of perception and perceptions are a matter of our expectations. We measure, monitor, motivate and judge ourselves relative to our expectations. In fact, our human reward system is coded relative to our expectations. It is our expectations that lead us to judge a choice smart, an accomplishment meaningful, a connection trustworthy and a life well lived.
Expectations are the beliefs we have accepted about the future. But the monumentally important thing to understand about expectations is that when we accept these beliefs we actually shape the future we experience. Expectations are our own version of virtual reality machines allowing us to see, feel and experience the world as we wish it to be:
We behave as others expect us to behave.
We want what we expect others will want.
We value things as we expect others will value them.
We prefer things that we expect others will prefer.
We pay more attention to information that we expected.
We remember information that is consistent with our expectations.
We are motivated to chase those things that we expect will succeed.
We are satisfied when results exceed our expectations and disappointed when they do not.
We perceive the realities we expect to perceive and once chosen our mindsets are very hard to change.
Where do our expectations come from? The short answer is from everywhere, everyone and everything. Our parents want us to be doctors and lawyers, our schools smart and athletic, our synagogues, churches and mosques pillars of moral certainty, our places of work, tireless and productive, and our social media connections, adventurers, financially successful, socially conscious, politically active and endlessly fun. The better question is: Where do expectations NOT come from?
The French writer Anais Nin said it best, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” And because our observations and experiences are not recorded but constructed by our expectations and perceptions we are led to believe that we know what is going on in the world and that others see what we see, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
If we wish to be satisfied with our lot, this paradigm shift in thinking demands a paradigm shift in response to how we process the world we think we see and the behaviors we think we understand. The next time you find yourself angry, sad, anxious, stressed, fearful or depressed ask yourself two basic questions – What was I expecting and why? You may find yourself closer to important truths than you have ever been before.