Home > Expectations, Life in general > The Power of Positive Expectations: Questioned!

The Power of Positive Expectations: Questioned!


I am a big fan of positive expectations being a healthy powerful mindset that helps us plan and achieve so many aspirations. Many leaders, theorists, and researchers advocate and assert the idea (e.g. Churchill, Spalding, Goethe and Rosenthal to name a few). There is even a rule about it (The law of expectations) that dictates that whatever we expect, be it positive or negative, becomes a reality. If we are totally confident and believe whole-heartedly that things will happen, they will. To us, it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy; and with other people, it’s like drawing them directly or indirectly (through our language, voice, or even body language) to behave in a way to confirm our expectations. The “law of expectations” compliments the “law of attraction” which advocates that we attract what we constantly think about. Together, the two laws ensure that both our minds and the universe conspire to serve our deepest wishes. Our beliefs, assumptions, presuppositions, suggestions, elicited multiple cues, and cosmic energy all work together to have an impact on the course of whatever happens.

Very appealing laws for someone with a positive psychology orientation like mine. I do believe the law of positive expectations works and even preach about it all the time with my students and clients alike. The counter argument was always: “what if we expect something good to happen, but it doesn’t” (Like not scoring well on an exam, or not getting that dream job one had hoped for?) My reply was too often the same: setting high expectations makes one work harder and if things don’t work out as well as we wished, the outcomes may have been worse. It’s just feedback that we need to change the strategy we adopted the first time and keep trying harder. That second trial can make all the difference. I constantly had faith that things will inevitably change to the better if we kept our positive expectations. I am having second thoughts now. Seriously, what if these repeatedly don’t….

I’m revisiting the power of positive expectations lately due to experiencing a series of unmet expectations. Could it be that I was not confident enough that the expected would happen? That’s possible. After all, I couldn’t ignore my internal sensors. It felt like it is one disappointment after another; and everybody knows that repeated disappointment exerts a heavy toll on our feelings. It can knock us down so hard that we lose faith in ourselves or others – even for a short while. I am having my moments of doubt now. It is easy to talk myself out of it when matters rotate around myself. We can always do that: capitalize on our strengths and remember our successes. It becomes much more difficult if things involve maintaining faith in other people. We can never have control over the unpredictability of others’ responses. So many times we expect others to treat us in a good way, help us when we ask, and rely on them to carry out their promises. And then it’s an “epic fail”….. The law of positive expectations doesn’t always hold.

 How can we maintain a positive attitude when reality tells us otherwise? This is when a healthy dose of skepticism may be a good idea. Let me get clearer about the concept of “expectations” and redefine that “law” in general and in more specific terms just a bit further. I am seeking a buffer for future disappointments.

  1. Set realistic expectations: Extremely high expectations can lead to graver disappointments; and these are harder to deal with. One way we learn is through experience; and one intense event that stirs us up emotionally can suffice to hold us back for a long time. Get a reality check of probable outcomes every time. You can’t expect sincerely to fly like a bird, can you? That’s biologically impossible. You may think of an alternative that takes you high up in the sky akin to that flying bird.  
  2. Be clear that expectations don’t have to mirror reality later: We can get very close to what we expect, but it doesn’t always have to measure exactly to what we envisioned. Expectations work like a framework or general guidelines that clarify our destination. Be open to accepting “less than a perfect” match. It could be your dream house, soul-mate, or child for example.
  3. Have no expectations when it comes to others: Alexander Pope said it beautifully: “Blessed is he who expects nothing as he shall never be disappointed”. I wouldn’t want to generalize his statement to all sorts of expectations. It would be like depriving ourselves of fuel to strive and achieve. But since we can’t control others, nor their circumstances or whims, we’re better off lowering just that threshold to its minimum. I find this dictum only applicable to our relationship with others. Low or no expectations of what others can do to you is the best strategy. They are all fighting their own battles. Rely on yourself. You can still, however, impact them directly or indirectly in their being masters in their own territories. That’s when the law would still hold.
  4. Spread your focus and diversify: We sometimes confine ourselves to one primary source to get life-satisfaction; hence, have the same one expectation (e.g. expecting a higher pay-check). We may, also, rely so heavily on one source to get things done (e.g. expecting that exercise alone will help you reduce your weight). Both don’t work. The common adage is true: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. This way if one thing doesn’t work, there’s still probability in other things meeting your expectations. Who in his/her sane mind would want to build walls of confinement around “more”? That’s very limiting.
  5. Reframe any disappointed expectation: Ultimate expectations will be served. Let’s remember that. The baby steps to be there can be thwarted for a variety of reasons. Examine alternative explanations or justifications for why a prospect failed (e.g. there may be many hidden reasons that you don’t know). Shift your focus, then, to the brighter side of unmet expectations. Dig it out (e.g. what doesn’t break me makes me stronger; or everything happens for a reason; here’s my chance to exercise my persistence; something like that).
  6. Consider unmet expectations as chances to grow: It’s fascinating to aspire high. It keeps us going. Still, more emphasis ought to rotate around the learning experience and enjoying the ride as you wade your way through (e.g. we really get tempted by quick results when it is the trials that keep us mostly healthy). Furthermore, many times, it is small consecutive disappointments that lead us to much bigger results. Unmet expectations can be used as a catalyst for change, or a shift in direction. Find out where you can go next.
  7. Keep a bird’s eye view: Every now and then, take your distance and dissociate. We have the tendency to become too myopic when we get excessively involved. Reconsider, re-examine, and re-asses your expectations. Things evolve and change as you go about inventing your life. Keep alert to pointers down on earth. Change your expectations if need be. Opportunities may come in disguise. Fish these out.

 

The power of positive expectations? ….hmmmm…. How many times do you actually equip yourself with, but get disappointed. That’s why you hear so many arguing that you’re better off lowering your expectations (and save yourself the frustration). By no means am I totally debunking the law herein; rather, just fine-tuning it a bit. I find it somewhat unrealistic to completely accept that our expectations will be met at all times. Setbacks and disappointments are to be expected along the way as well. To view life in rosy glasses is certainly a desirable empowering attitude that serves us well many times. To overstretch it and claim that things will turn out as we please always is a bit over-rated, don’t you think? The above were a few laws for the “Law of expectations” 🙂  I am sure you can think of more….

 PS. I expect only a few to read this post upon publishing it (no more than 5 readers) and I guess this will be what I get. Please leave a comment if you’ve read so far. I’m putting that law of expectations to the test now 🙂

  1. Christopher K.
    April 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Being a big fan of The Law of attraction,I can’t agree with you more about the power of positive expectation!This is a quote that I love and serves as a good illustration to what is stated in the article:
    “Always aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”
    Keep us inspired 🙂

    Like

    • dddania
      April 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      Geeees 🙂 you’re fast Chris:)
      Your stated quote is one of my favorite too 🙂 🙂
      I can’t help those moments of doubt, but hey, someone always comes to remind us of having that faith I talked about 🙂
      Thaaanks for your amazing comment precious 🙂 I probably needed that 🙂

      Like

  2. Mirna Jrab
    April 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    I strongly believe in what you wrote Dania … It is 100% true … There’s a hadeeth kudsee that I cherish in which God says: “Ana 3inda husni zanni 3abdi b, fal yazunna b ma yasha’ “. So all what you entioned is in this quote. Love it.

    Like

    • dddania
      April 25, 2011 at 6:39 pm

      Yeeee Mirnaaaaa 🙂 🙂 many thanks for your comment 🙂 🙂
      Love that hadeeth kameen 🙂 It’s another eye-opener 🙂
      Kisses and misses dudette 🙂

      Like

  3. April 25, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    This is an excellent piece with many kernals of wisdom and helpful insights. I think that the important thing is, when our expectations are not met, to be introspective and to examine if we had anything to do with it and if we conclude we did not, to let it go. We don’t get everything we want in life and while I, too, believe in being positive whenever possible, but if we can learn something (and we almost always do) from our failures and disappointments, we are already ahead of the game, even when we thought things were negative.

    Thanks for this good piece, Dania.

    Like

    • dddania
      April 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm

      My dearest Iris 🙂 🙂 🙂
      You’re a reader as usual – and one who comments & gives feedback always 🙂
      I can’t agree with you more 🙂 I am glad that you find some truth in disappointmets as part of the process. And you’re definitely right about being ahead of the game if we learn from those failures 🙂
      Thanks again for dropping by Iris 🙂 🙂

      Like

  4. April 25, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I am always happy to drop by when I can, because I always take something good away with me, Dania.

    Like

    • dddania
      April 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm

      and you have no idea how much & what you give Iris 🙂 🙂 loads of love, attention, and appreciation 🙂 🙂
      you’re awesome 🙂

      Like

  5. April 25, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Thank you. Coincidentally, I started working on a post yesterday that has some similar themes, though a bit different. I will link to your post when I am done (shortly).

    Have a great rest of the day!

    Like

    • dddania
      April 25, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      That would be great 🙂 can’t wait to read it 🙂

      Have a fantabulous day yourself my friend 🙂

      Like

  6. Tania Jammal
    April 25, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Hayete Dania, I like it a lot!!! and here I’m sharing my personal thought and feelings .

    Just today I was reading an article in psychologies magazine about disappointments that we have to confront ourselves when we feel it and when it hits us hard, and sometimes you do need to stop and grieve …I also believe that everything happen for a reason and the reason will reveal itself in the future wether it was positive or negative …the only thing that unbalances me and will make me feel really disappointed & helpless are human beings… although lately with all the training, I’m coping better : )

    But to me ( I don’t know if this quote apply to it ). A quote that I love and it has been repeated in a different way by Peter Marshall, Alex Hamilton, and latest by Ginger Rogers

    “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”

    So why not aim for the best ?!! and if I aim for something less than perfect, although I might save myself the disappointment…but then I might fall as well for the imperfect : ) . Life is risks to take challenges, to make and lessons to learn, if I didn’t get what I wanted at least I’ve tried my best, then I will know that I have to try something else or do things differently… : )

    Tafa2alo bel5hayer Tajidooh : ))
    And if we set our self A SMART GOAL ….Specific,measurable,Achievable,Realistic,time limited… it will make our life much easier… but to me personally my goal sometimes are even beyond that(not intentionally ) just my imaginations, thoughts, vision I’m not sure : ) but honestly I enjoy the feeling of it cause at least by thinking about it brings a big smile to my face and sets my mind to positive mode 🙂 positive feeling then I take positive action : ) (now I’m laughing at myself) …and when I’m hit I rise up again !!! : ) hehe the rise of a hero : )

    Thank you dearest Dania for sharing, I really enjoyed it so much!! you wrote what I question myself most of the time, Thank you!! you brought to life my thoughts with your own lovely writings…as usual : )
    All the best always…

    Like

    • dddania
      April 26, 2011 at 6:38 am

      My dearest Tania 🙂 🙂
      Thanks a lot for your lovely comment 😉 you give beautiful reminders of having faith in one’s self and others. Oh, yes, w’ll stand for what we believe in 🙂 oh, yes, we’ll aim for the best 🙂 and oh, yes, life isfull of challenges to conquer 🙂
      Then again, we have to be flexible and deal with what we face ( and surely find the space to grieve our disappointments 🙂 I just did)
      But hey, I always bounce back 🙂 and these disappointments surely add a lot to the person we become 🙂 🙂
      Thanks again for your beautiful note 🙂
      Kisses habeeebee 🙂

      Like

  7. Tania Jammal
    April 25, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    p.s and aren’t we all the rise of a hero in what we face in life with all the emotions, failures, disappointment…. and as you said it again will make us stronger & wiser : )
    Best wishes always in all way : )

    Like

    • dddania
      April 26, 2011 at 6:39 am

      You bet habeeebee 🙂 I like the idea of a “hero rising” 🙂 🙂 min ta7t el ankad 🙂 🙂
      Great shift in perspective you just made there 🙂 🙂

      Like

  8. D
    April 26, 2011 at 3:47 am

    Beautiful heartfelt post DDD as usual habibi, but of course I’m sorry that you’ve been disappointed recently though 😦 But I love that you take it all in stride and produced this great post. I have many fave parts of it but one of them was, “Ultimate expectations will be served.” I’m living testament to that and many other points here, definitely believe in them. E.g. I didn’t get the internship I wanted last year even though I believed in my ehart it was mine, but then I ended getting sick and going home for a break and treatment anyway, and got it this year hamdillah. All happened for a reason. Trying to find meaning in things that don’t necessarily have happy endings like the chronic pain and it can be hard not to feel disabled by it and get focused on what I can’t do. But I try to consciously shift my view to what I CAN do and how I’m being forced to slow down and bi in the moment and more mindful…maybe that’s the gift from the pain (one of the very few!!!LOL) Lovely post ya DDD! And here’s another quote I love esp. if peoplea act in disappointing ways: Innaka lan tahdee man a7babt fa Allahu yahdi man yasha2.

    Again, I think you’ll love “I AM”! This post made me think of it!

    Love you DDD!!!

    Like

    • dddania
      April 26, 2011 at 6:30 am

      Deeeee 😉 🙂 it makes me happy to feel I am not alone in this line of thinking and feel so proud of you that you consistently turn things around for your benefit. You resonate with this post and I feel validated. Thanks ya rouuu7iii 🙂 🙂 you ought to be proud of effectively handling your physical condition. You’re a living example of having a powerful mind set to keep going babe. Very wise attitude 🙂 🙂 Keep it up dudette 🙂 no body said life was easy, but everyone promised it can be made an enjoyable ride 🙂 🙂 🙂
      Love you more ya Deeee 🙂 🙂

      Like

  9. ROLAND
    April 26, 2011 at 7:06 am

    I have to handed it out to you dana that I am not a big fan of this specific concept. This is like taken the concept of “positive thinking” and then blow it up into a totally surreal dimension. “The secret” had depicted similar approach, that is when you think about something real hard it will bound to happen through some mystical and universal chain of events.

    Somehow I found this hard to grasp. This, in my personal opinion falls into the metaphysical realm, a highly emotional and aspirational approach indeed but it demands a great deal of faith in order to accept it.

    Upon reading and viewing the documentary of “the secret” I was under the impression of viewing yet another sleazy american soap opera – sorry for all the fans out there. Whether this is coming from the Buddhist monks in the Tibet, or from a Hindu believe, I just can’t seem to grasp the whole concept. As hard as my romantic and emotional brain strives to adopt it my rational impulse prevents me to do so.

    The particularity of this specific subject is that it takes a very personal endeavor “the positive thinking”, which is a well rooted concept within everybody’s own control, and can do wonders when it comes to our personal fight against our daily adversities and throw it out of proportion into an uncontrollable aspect.

    But I guess you would prove me wrong as your underlined expectation and theory you had put to the test will soon be met.:):):) Appreciate the post however… just Fantabelous :):):)…. all the best.

    Like

    • dddania
      April 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm

      Rolaaaand 🙂 🙂 I am glad you find te law of attraction as blowing positive thinking out of proprtion 🙂 🙂 That’s very true 😉 I found “the secret” appealing, but at the same time exaggerated somehow. I always thought “action” was a major component missing. We can’t make things happen by the power of our brains and cosmic energy alone. so much goes on down on earth 🙂 🙂 and WE stir things (so do others).

      Faith is good 😉 it is empowering, but many times alone that fails too 🙂
      oh, and that test I put out there failed again 🙂 I wonder what happened 🙂 🙂 I got many readers, ok so only a few posted, but I can tell from this things statistics 🙂 🙂 so I guess, I’ll be using that positive expectations sparingly and according to the rules I set in this post 🙂 🙂
      Thanks for your amazing feedback Roland 🙂
      and have a FANTABULOUS day 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Like

  10. M.S
    April 26, 2011 at 8:03 am

    This was great Dr.
    Inspiring!

    Like

    • dddania
      April 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Thaaanks ya Moe 🙂 ) wlik I really missed you young Man 🙂 🙂 hope all is well 🙂

      Like

  11. Tania Jammal
    April 26, 2011 at 9:13 am

    love You ya a7la Dania !! have a great day : ))) now and everyday !! much love !

    Like

    • dddania
      April 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm

      Habeebteee Taniaa 😉 🙂 Love you more ya rouuu7iiii 🙂 thanks for your lovely wishes 😉 wishing you the same & moooore 🙂 🙂
      see you soon precious 🙂

      Like

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