Some claim that expectation is the cause of all disappointment. Interestingly, it is surprisingly difficult to refute that statement!
Since nobody likes to experience disappointment, some may think that the solution would be to have as little expectation as possible to prevent disappointment. Yet, a person living like that would often feel that life is bland and missing a key flavour — excitement.
Agonising Pleasure of Expectation
Think back to the time where you yearn for something... An overseas trip, a big/small ticket item, checking something off the bucket list, etc. The process of getting toward this goal allows us to experience that agonising anticipatory happiness. This is all due to our expectation of that big payout in terms of satisfaction when we eventually achieve our goal.
In some sense, we can think of this as an investment with interest. We invest our time and energy (including physical and emotional energy) into what we, consciously or subconsciously, think is worthwhile. This evaluation is based on our expectations of the future. Like with any form of investment, since the payout is in the future, there are risks due to the uncertainties involved. When we succeed, we collect our payout. And when this payout does not match the expected returns (this can be a case of fewer returns and not necessarily a case of zero returns), we experience disappointment.
For those who have experienced multiple disappointments, it is common to "lose faith" and give up on having any form of expectation altogether. While this is a logical response, knowing that humans don't deal well with "grey", we are likely to over-generalise our experience and end up in a depressing, jaded and cynical state which is... a horrible way to live.
As you can already tell, in my opinion, expectations make living exciting and give us something to look forward to. It gives us hope for the future, goals to strive towards and courage to move on in spite of future uncertainties. How can we advocate a life with no or mediocre expectations!
Dealing with it
Instead of letting "expectation" take the bad rep, it will be better instead to learn how to cope with situations when expectations are not met. Yes, we often advocate that prevention is better than cure and this seems to suggest focusing on damage control when we can simply avoid the damage. The reasons for this are (1) to live life to the fullest, don't save up on expectation and (2) since the future is uncertain, it is inevitable for expectations to fail to meet the reality anyway.
So how should we deal with situations where reality does not match expectations? Here's my take on it — with the use of the cliche ABC abbreviation.
A for Acceptance
Since we are not omniscient beings, it is very natural for us to have misjudgement in our expectations. Many things will look blatantly obvious in hindsight but hey! Such is life. Everyone get to experience this so don't let it get to you. The most productive use of our time and energy would be to accept it and move on.
B for "Bonus" Mentality
One of the main causes of our disappointment stems from how we view falling short of our expectations as a "loss". Often, if we analyse the situation from a more objective point of view, we will realise that it could very well be a case where the "win" is just not a "big" as we had expected or hoped for. This is why I think that adopting a Bonus mentality helps as it helps us focus on the gains that we achieved.
Here is also where it can get a little debatable. Some view that the only way to truly adopt this mentality is to moderate expectations and be less invested in them. In my opinion, it is possible to be fully committed to your goals and aspirations while remaining grateful and thankful for your achievements. This brings us to the next point which I will like to raise, which is...
C for Celebrate (the Process)
While we might have certain thoughts and expectations on how the future may unfold (which forms the basis of our expectations), it is undeniable that there is a level of uncertainty where things can go potentaily better or worse than expectation. By practicing this awareness, I think it will help us develop a habit of being appreciative of how events turn out (or if things do not turn out well, be more capable of accepting them). This is the reason why I have chosen the last point as celebration, or rather a reminder to keep up a celebratory spirit throughout the process. This way, we will be reminded to enjoy the excitment along the journey instead of just waiting for the eventual payout of a hit/miss in expectation.
We have all been burned by our overzealous expecations and sometimes, we walk away thinking that we are better off with little to no expectations. Instead of an entirely loss of faith for everything and anything, let's view life with more positiveness and courage — accept that we cannot always right and that's fine, view the expected as "bonuses" and instead of waiting for the final outcome, celebrate throughout the process!
With that, we can all expect our future to be something exciting and worth looking forward to.
Life may not be a fairy tale but a tale of one striving for it is one worth telling.