The only times I watched weather reports when I was little were in the winter when there was the possibility of snow. When snow was mentioned, the anticipation began. If the weatherman predicted a lot of snow, I of course agreed with him, hoping there would be enough to close the schools the next day. If the forecaster just predicted flurries or a scant inch or two, I would decide he was wrong and hope for large quantities of snow anyway. Sometimes I would even get up a few times during the night to check how much, if any, snow had fallen.
When I woke up the next morning, I was either overjoyed that there was enough snow to close the schools, or dejected that there was not much snow at all. The anticipation of snow and the actual snowfall colored my attitude for the first few hours of those days.
As spring approaches, there is a hint of warmth in the air on some days and the bite of winter on others. At lunch recently, one woman said that March is her least favorite month because you get your hopes up for warm weather, then the wind and cold return. Early spring brings continuous expectation and disappointment.
We have expectations about so many things including the people around us. In some cases we have low expectations and we are pleasantly surprised when the person does something seemingly out of character to exceed them. Just as often, our expectations of others are unrealistically high and when they are not met, we are disappointed.
Our expectations extend to our careers as well. I expected to be a computer programmer at a medium to large company and advance within the company, or maybe in my late thirties move into consulting work. Instead, I became a consultant before I was thirty and now I own a yoga center. Though it has turned out for the best, there were a few years of inner turmoil when my expectations did not coincide with reality.
For better or worse, reality often does not exactly fit our expectations. Years ago, an engineering friend showed me the equation:
Satisfaction = f (Reality – Expectations)
My friend was talking about marketing computer systems and how the client’s satisfaction was directly related to his expectations. If the client’s expectations were not met by the new computer system, he would not be satisfied.
In the case of computer systems, a client can demand changes, but we usually do not have the same control over everything that happens around us. We cannot change the weather or people’s personalities much less direct all the outside factors that shape our lives. Reality is as it is, no matter what our expectations are. In the end, our choice lies in whether or not we let our expectations control our enjoyment of life. When the trees begin to sprout a haze of green and the flowers start to grow, we can either enjoy or despise the cool reminder of winter on the cold and windy days. The weather will not change, though our attitude towards it can.
When reality and your expectations do not mesh, how do you react? Are you pleasantly surprised or are you disappointed? Can you allow reality to just be and enjoy it for what it is? Many times, it is precisely the unexpected that takes our lives in new and sometimes exciting directions.