Let’s do a thought experiment. Two people take the exact same 30-minute drive where they experience bad traffic. However, just before they leave they are told something different about the drive:
- Driver A is told it will take 10 minutes.
- Driver B is told it will take 45 minutes.
Which driver experiences more stress during the drive?
Driver A, right?
If you agree, you’re saying that by simply adjusting expectations we can influence the mind’s stress response. That’s exactly right and is the basis for the VP concept called Expect the Expected.
The mind creates expectations in two extremes. On one extreme, our automatic thoughts go to dark places about the way things are going to turn out, including worst-case scenarios. In other words, really low expectations.
On the other extreme, our thoughts make us feel surprised and frustrated when everything’s not the way we want it – weather, traffic, people, etc. In other words, really high expectations.
Think of a difficult person in your life. You lie in bed lamenting about their repeated bad behavior. Then, the next day you can’t believe it when they’re difficult. What’s even crazier is we don’t realize this is happening!
Let’s apply Expect the Expected to improve your mindset when something’s bothering you. It could be a pandemic or annoying family members. Start by using facts and logic to write down what you expect to happen and how it will make you feel. Then list the unknowns and how they might play out. Face the unpleasant facts without exaggerating them or sugar-coating them. Then create a plan to face the challenges.
This calms the mind as we get out of the extremes and into reality. It helps us out of a victim state and into productive action.
While every situation will not turn out the way we want it to, we can expect to produce strong results over time because our realistic expectations will provide resilience and grit to overcome, learn, and improve.