Event + Response = Outcomes

27 Jul

This whole formula of event + response = outcomes is so not a novel concept, and until recently I didn’t fully realize the secrets it holds. It’s one I have understood for a while now in my professional work, but I’ve not been fully conscientious of its meaning on a personal level. I’ve been doing some soul-searching recently, and it mostly centers around expectations. Why? This is something that we all deal with in different situations or circumstances throughout our lives, and are often challenged by. I also believe there are ways that I, and you, can better manage our expectations of ourselves and of others. I certainly have not cracked the code on this, but it is something I am trying to better understand and improve in my life.

I don’t deal with disappointment well. I am fairly certain that I share this sentiment with many others. And well, my time has come again to be up at the batting cages of life. When life throws us a curve ball the only control we have is on our reaction and ourselves. This is something I’ve had to face in a few back-to-back innings recently, and it has not been easy. It’s also forced me to ask some tough questions, how can I influence the outcomes in my life for today and the future? How can I improve myself and how I respond to events? So that I am a better role model to my son, but also so that I can enjoy healthier and more fulfilling relationships with myself and others? Unfortunately for me there has been too much cacophony recently that I’ve not been able to clearly and conscientiously consider my reactions to recent events, or curve balls, and react gently and deliberately. At some point the thunderstorms pass and we are left with fresh air to breath that guide us to clarity, thank goodness.

So its brought me to think more about expectations, and the great expectations I have had for life. As I turn another page in my book of life, I am actually seeking not to have so many great expectations but rather to have realistic expectations and less of them.

I dream big. I’ve always believed that if a dream is not bigger than one’s lifetime then it is not big enough. The challenge lies in that I am extremely practical, and have a knack for turning ideas into reality, except for when my mind runs away from me and I wind up with unrealistic, and frankly unfair, expectations. Lets start with a simple case that many of us can share… We plan a summer vacation to the beach, rent a house, invite our friends. For months we daydream about how wonderful and fun this vacation will be, and we even dream about how relaxing it will be. We create this expectation in our mind for the picture perfect beach vacation. Reality sets in, we arrive and one of the kids has gotten car sick and the other is way over tired. We clean the mess only to find more mess. Meanwhile our spouse is complaining that they are hungry but don’t do anything to start preparing dinner. Next thing you know the kids are fighting over who threw sand first. By bedtime you go to the kitchen to pour a glass of wine and are reminded that there is a sink full of dishes to do. So much for that blissful, fun, and relaxing family vacation! We come home tired and disappointed in ourself, our spouse, possibly our kids, and the overall outcome. It’s a tough spot to be.

It can also take the form of smaller more day-to-day trials and tribulations in life. Perhaps you plan a special home cooked dinner that you went out to get special ingredients for. You confirm with your significant other what time they will be home and dinner will be on. Dinner is on the table, and there you find yourself eating alone. Your significant other got caught-up with work and couldn’t make it.

Unrealistic expectations also permeate our professional lives. You may have a business idea or an invention that can help change the world. You dream-up how this business will run, you see an intrinsic need for it and expect that everyone else will too, and you have set a high expecation for immediate success and prosperity. Only to find yourself disappointed when you can’t raise the captial to get it off the ground or to find there isn’t much of a demand for your invention or idea. This can quickly lead to frustration, disappointment in yourself, and at times financial hardships.

Unrealistic and unfair expectations always lead to disappointment, and most often outcomes that are characterized by some level of hurt. Our expectations of others also greatly impacts the way we perceive them and hence the way they behave, their reactions. Well how about if we instead watch our minds more cautiously, and deliberately set realistic expectations. We can still dream, but we don’t let our minds run away with the daydreams that lead to unrealistic and unfair expecations. We would still come back from vacation tired but we’d probably at least have a smile on our face, and be at a happy place with others. This is precisely what I am working on.

The whole notion of big houses, keeping up with the Jones, dreamy picture perfect families, successful and easy small businesses – breeds a culture that normalizes false expectations that lead to disappointment, and often times destruction. For me, I am committed to changing that in my life and the first step is to watch my mind. By watching my mind, I can ensure that my reactions are more gentle and peaceful. That my dreams and expectations don’t run away from me. I will watch my mind throughout the daily rhythms of life, so that it becomes ingrained in me, and not only when my time comes to be up at the batting cages of life. I will deliberately seek to react more gently with myself and with others.

Expectation is the root of all heartache.
– William Shakespeare



4 Responses to “Event + Response = Outcomes”

  1. Sandi July 27, 2016 at 10:25 am #

    “A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.” – Mark Twain. You are right my friend…most don’t take disappointment well. I have been in the same place and finally realized that I set my self up for the reaction (and resulting affect it has on others around me) and alone am responsible for the aftermath. Taking from Mr. Twain’s sentiment, finally learning how to more-often-than-not expect the unexpected has allowed me to cope better and not get too overwhelmed with my “what if’s”.

    Another thought has been on my mind in regards to this topic of blown expectations recently. Have you read/seen The Martian? Towards the end of the story the characters are met with a problem that has multiple potential injects depending on what course of action they take. As they get caught up in the potential results of different decisions, one asserts that you work the real problem, then work the resulting problem when it happens…keep working the problems right in front of you and (not the potential outcomes) eventually you will get a result. You can’t anticipate what the real result will be from a decision or action…It may not be the result you expected or desire…but you will have finality, no second guessing and closure.

    • vivevivir July 27, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

      Thanks Sandi! I too get overwhelmed, and even overcome, by what ifs… Which is a terrible thing when you are as dogmatic as I am. That is a very good perspective on working the problems right in front of you here and now… And yes makes sense that it leads to the eventual outcomes. Now I must go read The Martian.

  2. Kenny Miller July 27, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

    So true about expectations and the beach vacation example. During a recent visit with my daughter and her two small children we talked about her expectations. They have a a campa-house (so named by the then 3 year old) trailer in Delaware. It too her a year to reset expectations with the frequent visits to campa-house. It was not a vacation. It was/is simply living in a different house. Minding the kids, three meals, snacks, visiting friends, and so forth. Her sanity/happiness level is much improved after her soul searching and normalizing expectations. More power to all of them. And you.

    • vivevivir July 27, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

      Thanks Kenny! It’s certainly something we all face to different degrees. Normalizing expectations can be tough. But we can’t mistake it with dreaming and continuing to dream big!

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