Hacking expectations.  How can you do that? Let me explain.  Have you ever felt let down from something that happened to you recently?

Maybe you expected to get an A in a Biology because you thought it was easy, but you ended up getting a C minus. Maybe, you thought it would be easy to get a job at Google as a Software Engineer, but shortly after interviewing you got a rejection email back saying you were turned down right away. It is possible your boyfriend or girlfriend ended your relationship and you thought things were going well.

hacking expectations

In all of these scenarios there is a constant theme: you have an expectation of what will happen, something happens and it makes you feel a certain way.

If you want to learn how you start hacking expectations in order to start feeling better then read on! Before we continue. sign up on my mailing list to be sent these posts straight to you every week!

What are Expectations

Defined by Google’s Definition service:

  • Expectation: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future

So, it is a strong belief.  A strong belief is something that someone has intense faith behind. That faith is behind something that “should” occur in the future.  What is a belief? Thats something we hold to be true in our minds. Hmm, so how can we hack this belief to make it work for us?

What you are Doing now

There is a reason why you are not feeling good after most situations you place expectations on.  For example, there is a theory from a book, Thinking Fast and Slow called the Planning Fallacy. It states that humans tend to be optimistic when giving time estimates for things like completing a task and they underestimate the time that is really needed to get it done. In essence, humans will say they need 5 minutes to get something done, but in reality it will take 15. The problem is, other people who they are interacting with use that 5 minutes as guide for when the other person will be complete. They set an expectation. Then when they realize that the 5 minute task is really longer, they are let down.

A Real Life Example

Let’s use an example to drive this point home. Mark promises his wife that he only needs 15 minutes till he is done watching “the big game” so he can join his wife and leave for their dinner plans. Monica, Mark’s wife has been excited for this dinner as it is the new hot restaurant in town that all her friends have been raving about. She spent months trying to find someone to watch the kids so they can make a reservation at this place, just so they can know what everyone has been ranting about.

The game that Mark is watching is his favorite basketball team and they are tied with 2 minutes left. If they win this game they make it to the NBA Finals(the first time in 54 years). They go into overtime. The game ends up taking 30 more minutes. Monica is furious. When they get to the restaurant they find out that their reservation had been given away because they were late. Monica, expecting to have an awesome night out with her husband, is let down greatly. She expected to have a wonderful meal, a wonderful time, and to be able to tell her all of her friends and coworkers about her restaurant experience. Now, not having made the reservation she feels sad because she expected a wonderful night.  She also is angry at her husband for watching the game and seemed to not care about their relationship.

hacking expectations

What you can do

Do you want to avoid being let down like Monica was in her relationship and for the awesome plans she had for that night? Ok I hope your answer was yes. There is no reason you should feel poorly about what you are doing. I am going to preface this with maybe something you would never expect to come out of my mouth. Here you might need to use some Negative thinking.

Negative Thinking

I know, I talk about positive thinking all of the time. Just hear me out. Not negative thinking in terms of sad thoughts or anything of that nature. I am talking negative thoughts in the sense of reducing your expectations. Once they are lowered, they can actually match what would really happen. Understand that humans are optimistic in planning. They are not perfect creatures and they make mistakes. Even the best of us make real mistakes all of the time.

When you are counting on other people or even yourself, I want you to question if what the other person gave as a time estimate or as a quality estimate is really possible. Try lowering the expectation so it is lower or worse than what the other person said.  Then when the person tends to let you down, you won’t feel bad.

Lowered Expectations

You set the expectation, do not allow the other person’s judgement to set it for you. What most people do here is take what the other person says as truth.  They allow that to dictate their beliefs and expectations.

hacking expectations

Now this does not work in all scenarios. Sometimes there will be emergencies and you need to rely on what someone else is telling you. Also another side note: you need to base your expectations on the person. If the person tends to overdeliver then you know that you can probably expect to get exactly what you asked for. If a person tends to be late then you can expect them to be late (and then some.)

The key is to take what the person says, given the person’s history and human nature, do you think they will be able to hit that expectation they set for themselves? What you will often find is the answer is no. You must set the expectation for yourself then!

Hack Expectations Today

This post was not to make you think it is ok to be a negative thinker. On the contrary, it is here to teach you to prepare for the worst (this prevents you from being let down) but hope for the best (if someone does perform to your standards you can be ecstatic). This will take some time to develop but overtime you will get better with hacking your own expectations so you can never be let down again.

Remember to Grow with the Flow!

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