Day 16: Manage our expectations, manage our realities.

 Monday, 30 October 2023

Image: Erik McLean/Unsplash

Expectations, predictions, and realities.

Numerous researches have shown that we people have that superpower of predicting as one of brain functions. The brain works through processing past informations and create a set of predictions. The past informations can involve many things, including your emotion and/or multi sensory experiences. Within the predictions, that will manifest reality.

Our brains are “prediction machines”, steering us through life by generating expectations, and only revising them when unavoidable. Those expectations then play a vital role in shaping what we experience. (Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, 2022)

Unfortunately, my personal experience with expectation are always in the scenario of me expecting bad things to happen. Anything bad that I ever expected, will come into my reality in a flash. 

“Like a dramatist carefully crafting a narrative arc,” Robson writes, “we don’t like the objects of our expectations to go off script.” (Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, 2022)

One of the reasons why my expectation always focuses on the bad things to unfold is that I have been programming my brain to record more signals from bad experiences. No matter how many times good things that happened, I trained myself, my brain and my intuition, to only be prepared for the possibilities of bad experiences to reoccur in the future. 

You're right: I'm training my brain and my intuition to be in a constant state of fight or flight mode. Furthermore, I am assuming that I'm one step closer to acquire victim mentality for I always, mind you, always, think that this world is so hostile and it will find a way to work against me and my future plans. And be it, everything bad that I expected to happen, happened.

This result suggests that the extent to which the brain will use expectations in perception is shaped by the state of visual brain regions before we have even seen anything: sometimes the brain is ‘more prepared’ to base its inferences on sensory signals, while at others it is ‘more prepared’ to base its inferences on expectations. (University of Sussex)

"Keep your expectations low" might not the best answer about this.

Why expectation matters so much in our lives is because first of all, it helps us to develop perception about ourselves and the reality that surround us. When we expect our environment as a harsh and hostile, may it become. That principle also applies the other way around.

Secondly, expectations, especially the ones you set for ourselves, influence the degree of our efforts to meet them. High expectations with a sense of reality check makes us perceive a mission in more optimistic view. This results to us putting real effort to keep making progress despite the setbacks. Low expectations, on the other hand, lead us to the feeling of helplessness and despair. How could you make effort when you're drawn into helplessness and despair to begin with? (Lisa Bortolotti, University of Birmingham, 2018)

What I learned from this:

  1. We might not be able to control to output and outcome of our effort, but
  2. When we expect highly of ourselves, the optimistic perception will be our main driver to make progress.

Then, how do we manage our expectations?

"In the end, our advice is not to ditch expectations, but to right-size them." (Brigid Lynn and David Rock, Fast Company, 2022)

As we are already programmed to record bad experiences, we need to reprogram our brain and intuition to also predict good things. This is to challenge and balance our familiarity that is leaning towards pessimistic proxy. In my case, the simplest thing I can do is to recollect good memories in which I feel most accomplished and most optimistic. Hopefully, this can stimulate new predictions of good things to happen in my reality. 

Now that we have balance proportion of good and bad predictions, it is more possible for me to manage it:
  1. I will choose to perceive that my mission is possible to start or to continue.
  2. In response to the good predictions, I will keep making progress with optimistic view that the mission I'm pursuing actually has potentials to succeed.
  3. In response to the bad predictions, I will calculate every actions I take and avoid things that will ruin this mission within my capacity.
This sense of agency brings me more clarity on what to perceive, what to predict, and what to expect. This can also emphasize our active and sovereign role in our own lives, instead of being a slave of uncontrolled expectations and wild guessing game. 

This is actually liberating me from my self-made limiting beliefs and old values I acquired from my past experiences.

Let's just embrace that the expectations do exist as our natural responses to a certain trigger or stimulus, it is our unconscious minds that have been programmed to take side. Unfortunately it's the side that is against us.

Also, let's start a journey of reprogramming our mind to be more conscious in managing our expectations. Today's journaling prompt for you are:

  1. Is it good experiences or bad experiences that you remember the most from your life journey?
  2. Notice how you respond to any new opportunities or daily life experiences. Do you think about the bad result, or instead just give it a try with sense of optimism?
  3. In responding to those, are you being autopilot, or are you being conscious about your expectations?

Good luck!


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