Do you tend to go into situations with expectations about what will transpire or are you more likely to approach life with an open mind? It is human to make assumptions and try to predict what might happen next. If we are accurate in our predictions, this may be useful for our very survival. Our expectations can powerfully shape our experiences, effectively creating a tailor-made reality, for better or for worse.
Assumptions underly our attitudes, direct where we place our attention, guide our behavior, and influence our choices around the data we use to draw conclusions about ourselves, others, and the world. Our expectations can impact our moods, health, capabilities, performance, and sense of well-being. Preconceived notions can even determine whether you enjoy or value something, regardless of the actual quality of the product or experience. Finally, our beliefs about what we are getting into can block us from new learning, if we are only open to what is anticipated.
When we believe in lies, we cannot see the truth, so we make thousands of assumptions and we take them as truth. One of the biggest assumptions we make is that the lies we believe are the truth! – Don Miguel Ruiz
Expectations can be amazingly powerful. For example, placebo surgery (just cutting someone open and sewing them up) can at times match or exceed the outcomes of therapeutic surgery. Research has shown that expectancies shape pain intensity processing in the central nervous system. Some children who are blind, but raised with the expectation that they can navigate their environments effectively, can learn to do things like ride a bike. When unexamined; however, our assumptions can leave us in ignorance, take us down the wrong path, or even cause harm to self or others. We may try too hard to meet perceived expectations, sabotaging our performance or diminishing any satisfaction in the doing. Striving to meet expectations means we are wanting things to be other than they are, which makes it difficult to be in the moment.
When we understand the power of expectations, we see how important it is to be mindful of them. There may be times when making assumptions is helpful and other times when it is more useful to adopt a beginner’s mind. Being aware of our inner experience in the moment helps us discern with wisdom and make space for thoughtful choice.
A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect. ― Jonathan Lockwood Huie