Expectations kill people!

In every survival situation I can think of it’s the expectations that did it.

The pilot expected to make it through lowering cloud… and flew into a mountain.

The prospector expected to find his way back to his vehicle… and was lost for days.

The lost man expected to find water… and perished from dehydration.

Reality! - No one in their right mind would continue into a situation they expect will kill them. 

In a survival situation the feedback is rapid. When you make a mistake the consequences are quickly experienced, sometimes in a matter of hours.

In our fast paced modern life, consequences may take days, or even years to arrive, but they are just as inevitable:

They expected the boom to go on and on...

He expected his staff to care as much about his business as he did…

So how can expectations lead us so far astray?
The fact is that our amazing brain treats memories of actual events and expectations of the future in exactly the same way.

“[Expectations] are stored in memory just as past events are. To the brain the future is as real as the past.”
L. Gonzales in ‘Deep Survival’ (2003).

The impact is that we tend to become fixated on our expectations, and then continue to blunder forward with a kind of blind optimism that believes the expectation will come to pass. That serves us well until there is a conflict – either between our expectations and those of another; or when reality begins to diverge from what we expect. At that point we have the choice of reformulating our expectations. If we don’t we are destined to encounter disappointment, conflict and friction.

The biggest challenge is being aware of what your expectations actually are. Most are formed without any conscious thought. for more on that see recent post http://goo.gl/dHZydF

I use a couple of great questions to clarify my own expectations:

  1. What do I expect in this situation?
  2. What is the impact on myself and others if this expectation is not met?

Once you are clear about your own expectations, one of the greatest gifts you can give to others is to clearly communicate your expectations with them, and seek to understand theirs.

The beginning of a new financial year is a great time to intentionally discuss your expectations in business. Are your strategies sound in the current reality? Are you tuned in to the expectations of your clients or customers? Does your team have a clear picture of what is expected of them, including how success will be measured or judged? Have you spent some time exploring the plausible "what if" scenarios for your business?