HOW TO KEEP EXPECTATIONS FROM RUINING POSITIVE THINKING
Posted On November 24, 2018
(Life Is Not Black and White)
Speed Peek (Expectations)
Understand More (About Expectations)
Anti-Challenge Reframing (Part 2 of 5 Expectations)
Short Story (It’s Not BnW)
Continuing from last week’s post, “5 Tips for Creating A Positive Attitude”, here is a look at the second tip: “Expectations: They kill fun, period. Whether too high or too low, they rob you of experiencing joy, humor and new opportunities.”
I mentioned in the previous post, that when I studied my own actions and reactions, I discovered I have a lot more control over whether or not my life “feels positive”. Much the same was found regarding my expectations. It became apparent that whether or not I stated them out loud, my expectations influenced what I actually experienced. In taking a close look at what contributed to forming them, I discovered I had a say in shaping them. This also meant I had the ability to reframe the ones instigating a negative outlook.
A quick look at the definitions as I mean them, in relation to this post:
Expectations are a belief that certain outcomes will be produced, in a given situation.
Expectations are a belief that something is going to happen, or that something should be, a certain way.
It is important to note: The outcomes of Expectations are based on assumptions and presumptions
Where do my assumptions and presumptions come from? ♦The way I interpret the outcome of my past experiences ♦Concluding all elements required to achieve the outcome are in play
The solution (to changing my assumptions and presumptions) is rooted in: OVERCOMING RIGID THINKING At the end of the day, one of the key factors (which I can control) always seems to boil down to my ability to overcome rigid thinking. Simply put: I have the choice to at least consider different interpretations. (See “Understand More” for more detail.)
Reading this blog weekly, you’ll begin to notice some repeating similarities; some common, key ways of thinking that made all the difference in the world regarding my efforts to live a life of positivity. Cutting to the chase, one of the key steps I simply cannot do without in the process of creating change is: ReplaceRigid Thinking with Flexible Thinking
Reasonable expectations, in and of themselves, are not bad things. After all, we use them to set goals & gauge progress. I believe expectations need to be thought of as An OUTLINE GUIDE to possible outcomes, not absolutes. When I think of my interpretation of past experiences and assumptions as rigid absolutes, I am setting myself up for hitting the ‘tripwire’ of disappointment and frustration. Face it, no two days, no two situations, are exactly the same. Expectations can do a great job of giving clues to possible outcomes so I can try to prepare, but, they can also do me harmif I don’t use them in conjunction with flexible thinking, which is being willing to:
Consider there may be different interpretations of past experiences
Recognize assumptions are guesses, not facts
As an analogy of misinterpretation and assumption, let’s look at the lead photograph. Life is like this unaltered photograph. There was no post processing work on this image; you are seeing it just as it was captured.
What you see is fact, but, what is it that you see?
At first glance, you may assume the image is Black and White. Look closely though, and you will see it is a full color photograph. Initially, you may notice what takes up the most space: The white of the pillars, and the black of the space beyond. But did you notice that the steel posts and cables, which connect the pillars, are in fact grey?
Think of theses ‘grey areas’ as the shapeable portion of our lives:
The grey anchor posts representing our interpretations and assumptions (which direct our thoughts and actions)
The grey cables representing our expectations (which are affected by our interpretations and assumptions).
The white pillars are our experiences; the black space beyond being the rest of the world we see at a distance (the part of life we have no real control over).
These ‘grey areas’ of our lives are greatly influenced by the choices we make and how we choose to interpret, or perceive. I believe these choices of ours do shape how we experience our ‘Black and White’, our ‘reality’. I don’t know if that sounds like good news to you or not, but it does to me! It means I am not powerless; it means I don’t have to feel like a victim of negativity; it means that with some effort, I can choose to perceive in a positive way; leading me to find the silver lining in all things I experience. One of the positive outcomes of my choices (the choices of considering there may be different interpretations of past experiences, and learning to view expectations as guiding outlines, rather than absolutes) has been the beautiful silver linings which are now visible. Even though some of the silver linings occurred unnoticed, now that they are in sight, they are potent, positive influences in my life, which I learn from.
(Part 2 of 5; Expectations) Overcoming Rigid Thinking (setting ‘traps’ for ‘tripwires’)
Goals for this Exercise:
Learn how memorizing a prompt key-word/key-phrase can help break the pattern of rigid thinking; allowing alternative interpretations to step in.
Use these (or your own) keywords to avoid the ‘tripwire’ of old, rigid expectation thinking. Try them when you find yourself stating absolute expectations.
The truth about altering the way I viewed expectations: It was a lot easier to get started with the change, than it was to continue it. Some ‘solutions’ sounded so simple when reduced to writing, that I formed an expectation of quick success. Days, weeks, months passed, yet I continued to find myself stumbling on ‘tripwires of old, rigid expectationthinking’; until something changed.
The something that changed was stopping short of where I was tripping on rigid thinking. The following method may sound silly, but it worked for me: I decided to setout ‘traps’ to catch the ‘tripwires’, before they caught me. These ‘traps’ were a few easy-to-remember prompts, which worked like a charm in pulling me to the frame of mind where I could focus on what I’d learned about more flexible thinking. These prompts, for refocusing quickly, became my“key word” and my“key phrase”.The more I used them when expectations arose, the easier I found it to remember my expectations were possibilities, not absolutes.
The way I remember something I’m having a hard time recalling, is to attach something fun to it. Hence, in this case, I call my memory key words: Traps for my tripwires. I still get around the tripwires by setting my own ‘traps’ for them. (Or as I like to say to myself, while laughing: Traps for the trap tripwires that were trying to trap me.)
Clues that warn me I may need to trap a tripwire:
When I notice I am creating too many details when planning (making too many assumptions)
I find myself already in a pickle (having already gone so far as to feel the repercussions of “my plans” not panning out)
I’ve already assumed one situation is the same as a previous, even though the elements are different
My prompts (traps): Must be easy for me to remember
(1) Simple keyword (flexibility)
(1) Simple key phrase (I don’t like it)
The key word I chose was:Flexibility. Pulling up the word “flexibility” from memory is the trap I set for disappointment and frustration; it reminds me to step away from rigid thinking. This works well when I notice that the plans I make sound more like absolutes, rather than flexible outlines that guide. This trap has served me well when I am enthusiastic to embrace potential change, as well as when I really don’t like the process involved in trying something new. The key phrase: “I don’t like it”, is part two of my trap. No matter what attitude I choose to approach change from, this trap is just as indispensable. I say this with confidence about myself, because I learned the hard way: If there’s one thing worse that not remembering the steps to go about change, it’s forgetting why I wanted to change in the first place. “I don’t like it”, means exactly that: I don’t like the repercussions of rigid thinking. Having selective memory, or minimizing previous discomfort, is a very fast way to be treated to a reminder; one which comes in the form of reliving the discomfort, in full, all over again.
A little different twist to this very short story; it is “the rest of the story”, behind another “rest of the story”, if you will. The image featured first on this post, “It’sNot BnW”, was taken almost an hour after the image featured on last week’s post (Sunset Askew). For anyone who has not read the post I’m referring to, “Sunset Askew” was a shot that ‘magically appeared’ (once I changed my perspective, lol). Well, I found it hard to leave straight-away after I’d had a little taste of magic with the sunset. So, I lingered a bit, enjoying the night air on the top floor of the parking garage where I was shooting. I was not necessarily looking for ‘more magic’, but when I turned from where I had been looking over the parapet wall, daydreaming, I glanced up to noticed the sharp contrast of the white pillars and the black night. This required investigation, for sure! Using my cell phone, I tried a few shots from ground level; not bad! Yup, time to click serious with the Canon. Wow, what a magic double-header night behind the lens that was! Just think, I almost left that rooftop before the magic even got warmed up. I sure love the way life surprises me with beautiful little gifts, when they’re least expected. Good thing I wasn’t having a day run by negativity; what a shame it would have been to waste the thrill by over-looking it. (Note to self: Keep that in mind this coming weekend.)
Image: “It’s NotBnW” f/4.5 – 1/25 – ISO 6400 focal length 64mm No post processing Canon EOS 80D
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