"Then there are expectations. The mind makes models of what it thinks will happen, which colors its perceptions of what is actually happening. If you give people a hand cream and tell them it will reduce pain, you are building a set of expectations. People really feel their pain diminish, even if the cream is just a lotion. People who are given a prescription they are told costs $2.50 a pill experience much more pain relief than those given what they are told is a 10-cent pill (even though all pills are placebos. As Jonah Lehrer writes, 'Their predictions became self-fulfilling prophecies.'"
-- David Brooks
After reading the above quote you might be wondering, "What in the world does that have to do with being positively present?" Well, quite a bit, in fact. After reading that quote in The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, it really made me think about how having positive expectations can really impact all aspects of life. Whether we realize it or not, the way we think about an event or circumstance before it happens can actually influence the outcome.
How often have you thought about an upcoming event and envisioned all of the things that could go wrong? How often have you contemplated the "what ifs..." in order to feel prepared for the absolute worst? I often rationalize these thoughts by telling myself that I want to be prepared for whatever could go wrong. Yes, it's important to be prepared -- but is it worth the worry? Is it worth the risk of encouraging negative thoughts to cast shadows on an upcoming situation?
Expectations are a powerful thing. They can be wonderful and they can also be problematic. Having a strong belief that something will happen in the future -- either something good or bad -- can impact not only the way we experience that event, but it can also impact the way we view the world around us up until the point when that event occurs. Expectations are extremely influential.
So, what are we to do about these powerful forces known as expectations? If they can have such a monumental impact on how we live, how can we make the most of them? We make them positive, of course! Positive expectations can lead to a more positive life. Research has shown that optimists with positive expectations live longer than pessimists. They have less illness, and when they get sick, they recover faster.
Conversely, negative expectations can create a negative future. Whether we are aware of it or not, thinking negative thoughts can lead us to taking negative actions that can result in a negative life. Negative expectations are the starting point for living a life of negativity. So how do you avoid negative expectations and focus on the positive? Here a few steps to help you get started:
3 Steps to Cultivating Positive Expectations
1. Recognize negative expectations. It can be hard to realize it when we're in the midst of experiencing them, but one of the most important things you can do is realize the negative expectations when they start creeping into your mind. Pay attention to the way you are anticipating things to come and ask yourself, "Am I focusing on the negative? What are the 'what ifs' I'm dwelling on?"
2. Change your thinking from negative to positive. After you've recognized your negative thinking when it comes to expectations, it's time to start changing things. Stop thinking about what could go wrong, and start thinking about what could go right. Remind yourself that what you think can lead what actually happens so focusing on the positive will help to create a much better outcome.
3. Practice positive expecting. Practice makes perfect, as they say. So, even when you don't have strong expectations about something, it's a good idea to practice thinking about the future positively. For example, begin an ordinary day at work or school thinking about all of the things that can go right that day. Doing this on a regular basis will help you create a habit of expecting positive things!
So many of us have gotten into the habit of expecting the worst in order to prepare for any worrisome situations. I won't deny that it's important to be prepared for things that can go wrong, but there is a balance between being prepared and expecting the worst. Negative expectations can lead to negative situations. And, likewise, positive expectations can lead to positive outcomes. Now think about it: which one would you prefer...?