Expectations vs. Reality: how to create a better outlook.


Expect: to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of.

I once ran a stress management course for managers and one of the delegates (a warehouse manager) had a particular issue with the way his systems were interfered with by other managers. When asked to describe the situation he became quite agitated, his demeanour changed and his body language betrayed his inner angst…

“I get really mad when I come in on a Monday morning and find the weekend team have changed the way we operate. I spend hours getting things just the way I need them for the week and then they go and change it all over the weekend and mess it up for me”.

“How often does this occur?” I enquired.

“It happens EVERY weekend! So every Monday I come in expecting things to be the way I left them, only to find that everything’s changed. It drives me nuts!”

Expectations exceeded bring joy and contentment, expectations unrealised bring sadness and annoyance and expectations met bring a kind of calm, steadiness. One of the challenges we all face is managing our expectations and it is a skill that can require some development. If we reflect on our understanding of situations, our experiences and our abilities we can set appropriate expectation levels that enable us to stay in a positive state even when results are bad or situations become difficult.

A great technique in helping to set the right expectations comes from Michael Neil, the personal development expert and author of ‘Supercoach’ and ‘The Inside Out Revolution’…

“1. Think of an impending event that is important to you. It could be a meeting, a phone call, an announcement, a trip, anything that you know is coming up in the next few days.

2. Imagine the worst – the nightmare scenario. Not only do you fail, but you fail publicly, embarrassingly, and on an unprecedented scale!

3. Now, imagine the best – the Disney movie scenario. Not only do you succeed, but you save a diabetic child from down a mine shaft along the way!

4. Finally, imagine the likeliest – what do you think is a more likely outcome than either the nightmare or “wet dream”?

As you go through this, notice how your feelings change without anything changing in the world around you. This experience is the key to mastering and utilising expectation management.”

Setting the right expectations can have a profound impact on your outlook and your reaction to the experiences you encounter. It is definitely a skill worth developing.


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Image credit: Neerav Bhatt

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