Episode 51: The Expectation Effect

 In podcast

It’s happened to ALL of us. We have this vision of how things are “going to be” and they’re usually all happy,
cheerful, everyone is all smiles, gratitude, and appreciation (like the podcast image of this happy couple-
because that’s how we ALL surf the internet, right? 🤨)  and then it happens… someone is upset, they didn’t notice all you did or any of what you did,  everyone is NOT all smiles, is anyone smiling? and that’s when it happens…you’ve fallen prey to the expectation effect.

Expectations can feel like stable ground, something to look forward to and plan for
but when things don’t go according to “plan” we lose that footing,
our confidence, and our emotional wellbeing. So how can you create confidence in moving forward? How can you plan for the future without false security? Tune in with LDS Life Coach Hannah Coles to check that out!


Welcome back to another episode of the Confidence Catalyst podcast! I want to talk about something that I know many of you are probably struggling with right now. It’s been a huge theme all across the board with my clients. It was a struggle before Covid-19 but it’s at the forefront even more now and I want to help you out with this.

We’re going to be diving into the world of expectations today. Shakespeare once wrote, “Expectation is the root of all heartache”

Ponder on that for a sec. Think about all the negative emotions you’ve been feeling recently and with Covid and all the changes being made I’m certain you’ve been feeling quite a bit of them.

All your heartache is because you’re hanging onto an expectation of the way you think things “should” have been and they’re not.

This rings true with missionaries, graduations, weddings being postponed or being adjusted and all that time prepping, planning, dreaming all gone and exchanged for a much smaller, more intimate event.

Birthdays, schooling, at home church.

We all have an idea of what these things should look like. And here’s the thing about expectations, they come on really sneakily. So sneaky that you don’t even realize what you’re doing and what future you’re creating for yourself.

It can start as simply as seeing a post on instagram of a family that is all sitting down together doing a craft for FHE and in your mind you think, “that looks fun! We can do that. That’d be so good for the kids, they’d learn so much and be more engaged in what we’re talking about” and in your mind you’ve visualized this scene of this perfect moment and I bet in your mind everyone is happy, they’re enjoying themselves, and you’ve created this lovely future.

So you start implementing. You gather the supplies, you start prepping and all the while you have this background track telling you how things are going to be.

And here’s what’s so sneaky about expectations…Expectations act as solid ground. They give you a future that looks certain. This IS how things are going to be. So you move forward with a false sense of confidence in this plan so when the day comes and your kids are fighting, one is pouting and doesn’t want to be there, your spouse is preoccupied and on their phone and in that moment you’re upset.

You feel crushed and confused because this isn’t what it was supposed to look like. They’re doing it wrong! It then becomes a problem to be fixed and cue the negative emotions.

The solid ground that you were building on and felt so certain in is now gone and because you put all your energy into this one outcome your brain panics and doesn’t know what to do now – it was supposed to look like that! And so you mind starts catastrophizing, and thinking all kinds of crazy. Your mind goes to absolutes – This is how it ALWAYS is. You can NEVER have what that other family has. Your kids are ALWAYS fighting. And in the end, it’s not fair, it’s not enough, your not enough and it’s just all negative.

Welcome to the expectation effect. Now there’s differing degrees of this effect but the main concepts are there. You built a future on beliefs that others would comply to a certain standard and in most cases you don’t actually tell others what that standard is even – not that that would matter and it may even make it worse because then you’ll have the expectation that they should comply now that they KNOW what you’re expecting.

Expectations limit our perspective and create tunnel vision for our future and our relationships. You’re stuck because in your mind you’re just seeing again and again how things “should” have been.

It’s because of these “shoulds” that you’re unhappy. It’s never the circumstance and by that I mean the situation, the actions of others, the pandemic, the stores being closed, people wearing masks or not wearing masks, people gathering, graduations moving to online, schooling taking place at home, events canceled indefinitely.

Here’s another aspect to think about. We love certainty. Your brain thrives on certainty because it’s it’s job to keep you alive. If it knows what the future will look like it can relax, okay, you’re safe, you will survive through this – so when that future changes and things aren’t the way you envisioned it’s incredibly uncomfortable for your brain because it’s scrambling to find that solid ground a bit.

― John Allen Paulos once wrote, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”

The only certain thing is uncertainty and I mean this in terms of our circumstances. We don’t know what the future will hold. The future hasn’t happened yet so while planning is encouraged, expecting is another ballgame.

When you’re building your strength, confidence, and certainty on your expectations you’re going to create a rough and difficult experience for yourself. When you can build your strength, confidence, and certainty on yourself, on Heavenly Father, and the knowledge that the future is ever changing you can be more prepared for the future and more able to adapt and thrive.

Confidence, genuine confidence comes from knowing and embracing all the parts of you and being able to trust in yourself and in your abilities. This doesn’t mean you know how to handle each situation. It just means that you trust yourself enough to know that you create your experience by what you think. What you think creates how you. feel. You don’t have to be uneasy and worried because you can rest and rely and have confidence that no matter what happens your’e going to be okay. You’re going to make sure you’re okay by being intentional in what you’re choosing to believe and think.

Be certain that insecurity is going to pop up because it is. That’s the negativity bias showing up in your life. Your brain is wired to look out for potential dangers and threats. It’s it’s job to question and doubt – it’s YOUR job, using your prefrontal cortex to rise above this and give yourself that level of security, hope, and confidence.

Expectations are the root of all heartache because it doesn’t allow for what is.

Byron Katie said, when you argue with reality you’ll lose, but only 100% of the time.

Instead of looking at the way things SHOULD have been use your energy on more productive and useful things like accepting what IS. We get so obsessed with things being the way we think they should be that we’re unable to embrace the way they are or the idea that the way it is might be even better.

This acceptance doesn’t mean we love everything that comes our way – that is an option if you want it. Accepting doesn’t mean endorsing either it just means that you recognize that this IS what’s happening and now what? It allows you to move forward with eyes open to possibilities and options.

Think about the things currently happening in your life. Maybe you planned something super fun for your family and in your mind you’ve thought of everything and it’s just going to be special but when it comes time they’re not as excited as you are, they don’t want to participate, they don’t even care or notice the details.

That’s a bummer. Accepting this doesn’t have to mean that you like this. You’re allowed to be disappointed. Disappointment is part of our human experience. Resisting it is different. Resisting is still holding to your expectations of how things should have been.

Think about these expectation and resistance when it comes to your parents. So many of us have an idea of how their parents should be, how they should be showing up, what they should be doing, or how they should be caring for us. These are not helping you. These should are only causing you heartache.

When you expect people to be a certain way no matter how nobel or lovely those standards might seem you’re not able to see them for who they really are. Mother Teresa once said it so beautifully, “When you judge someone you have no time to love them”.

When you’re holding onto the idea that they need to be a certain way then you’re missing who they really are and who they can be. When you’re so focused on that disappointment and frustration you’re unable to embrace reality and to question how the reality can and is better than the vision you’re holding onto so forcefully.

If it were left up to us we’d all be living in some Hallmark version of our lives where everyone is happy, grateful, appreciative, kind, loving, and understanding and I believe that one day we will enjoy this kind of life but here in mortality we’re really good at being human and we need reality to help us grow.

Think about plants. I love plants. Redwoods are the tallest trees and it’s because they’re constantly being strengthened by reality, by the winds pushing against them, the sun beating down on it, the rains hammering into it. If it held the houseplant mentality it’d live a sad life thinking that it should be sheltered, warm, watered regularly, and fed plant food. But these giants are huge, they live for hundreds of years and a lot of this is due to their strength in accepting what is.

I know these expectations seem like a good idea. We want to know what to expect. We want to make plans. We want to have goals and all those are good things. But we want to make sure we’re approaching them with curiosity and acceptance.

It’s being able to look at that FHE when it’s all chaos and noise and instead of thinking this is a disaster and creating frustration for yourself, you think okay, that happened, now what? Maybe we could try something else. Maybe it doesn’t have to look like this. Maybe instead of this cute craft we stop and we use this as an opportunity to teach and learn in a different way or maybe we’re all tired and let’s try this again another time.

Take a good, close look at all your shoulds and question them.

Alexander Graham Bell wrote, “When one door closes, another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

Turning your energy from these expectations to curiosity leads to appreciation, gratitude, and abundance.

The difference between a plan and an expectation is in how your feel and what actions you take.

Expectations are rigid and these things MUST happen whereas plans are flexible. They’re using the information at hand and moving forward until new information arises and then we’re going to adjust as needed.

Do you see the difference? Expectations are tied to heartache and plans promote confidence and resilience.

When you allow yourself to just pause even for a second you can start letting in the possibility of what can happen instead.

Still plan. Plans are important and great but don’t put all your eggs in that basket. Rely on your ability to use your agency to create the experience you want to have.

Your circumstances don’t rob you of your happiness, joy, and fulfillment – your thoughts and expectations do. When you let go of these are by letting go I mean replacing them with curiosity and acceptance you’re then able to become more resilient, more rounded, more joyful.

Notice when your brain offers you all the should and then respond with, “but what if this is better?”

Redirect your experience to see more options. Don’t get caught up in these expectations especially right now. Things shouldn’t be the way they were. Home church shouldn’t look exactly like it does when we’re congregated. Homeschooling shouldn’t look like public school. Your mother shouldn’t look like your friends mother. Your husband shouldn’t look like a disney movie. Your life shouldn’t look like Hallmark and all of these things is because reality is so much better.

These changes and differences allow us to up level ourselves and grow as human beings. This like that in itself is better than everything just going exactly as you wanted it. Most of the time we don’t really even know what we want until life offers it to us. I have had challenges in my life that were difficult and while I argued with each and every one of them believing that it should look different. I’m grateful for them because I wouldn’t have been here, I wouldn’t have been brought on this path. I wouldn’t have grown to this depth or been able to create what I have had I been given what I thought I wanted then.

Lisa Kleypas once said, “You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you.”

Happiness doesn’t come from expectations. It comes from being able to adapt, to accept, and to create confidence amidst challenges. Confidence doesn’t come from certainty in your circumstances. It comes from your thoughts and from choosing to take care of you emotionally.

Take an inventory of your heartaches. You’re going to see a pattern. They’re all going to stem from an expectation that you’re hanging onto – no matter how good and Nobel those expectations may seem I invite you to be open to the possibility that reality is better. You may not have the mother you want or the marriage you always thought you’d have. You might not have the special FHE night that you dreamed about, or get the magical moment from the recipient of your gift. All these give you something greater. The opportunity to grow, to become, to be refined, and the experience of moving forward. Refinement comes through fire, from sanding, from friction. Give it a space, an intentional space in your life. See what a difference this makes for you.

Circumstances are always changing of that we can be certain. You however can be constant. You can grow, learn, adapt, and thrive if you’ll allow yourself to. Confidence,

Know, embrace, trust

Know yourself and what you’re thinking – embrace that this reality is different than what you thought it should be and that it’s okay. Allow yourself to grieve for that lost hallmark moment but then trust yourself that you’re going to be okay – that you make you okay – not the circumstances -but your thoughts and the way you’re choosing to think.

That happened, now what? Allow yourself to look forward, to move forward, to create a new future and possibly, most likely a better future. Spend time there, engaging in that potential. How is this better? You’ll start to have your perspective broaden and be able to experience a fuller, deeper reality than the surface level we thought we wanted.

It’s okay that things aren’t they way we thought they should be because this way gets to be better – and note, not better as in happier, easier, rainbows and daisies better but rather in that it’s growth, it’s learning, and it’s experience.

As in D&C, All your experiences shall be for your good, right?

Embrace reality.

Leave expectations behind.

Plan for the future but be sure to pack curiosity as an essential.

You can do this, my friends.

Okay, that’s what I’ve got for you this week! Come join the membership and get help on this. I know that things look different right now and it’s okay. You don’t have to be limited or unhappy. Come get coached. Come learn how to up level your life. Come discover how changing just one thing changes everything. Join the catalyst membership and be transformed.

Have a beautiful week, everyone!

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