Example 1: One morning a person looking to be in a relationship decides to use an online dating service. After completing their questionnaire and creating their online profile, the account is activated and goes ‘live’. After two hours of checking and rechecking to see if there has been any activity or requests, the first wave of expectation passes through. The profile is reopened and revised. Age and interests are adjusted. The hook, freshly re-baited, is tossed back into the water along with a promise to be patient. There will be no checking until the next day. During that evening, the second wave of expectation is felt and the promise is broken. No bites, no nibbles, no action. The promise is made again to leave the site alone. The night is restless. Just before dawn, with hope and a cup of coffee, the site is checked again. Still nothing. A third wave of expectation rolls past as the screen is simply stared at and wondered about. The title of this photograph is Loneliness. Not wanting to sit with it (the loneliness), the person decides to start scanning other people’s profiles and clicking on whomever remotely appears to be a ‘match’. The fourth wave of expectation is in full force.
- the first wave brought dishonesty
- the second wave weakened integrity
- the third wave introduced self-doubt
- the fourth wave warped their judgment
Please note: All of this has taken place before any other person has even indicated an interest, no less gone out on a date. This is not a clash of expectations. These are the effects of expectations all by themselves.
Example 2: The head of your department has asked you for a one to one meeting later this afternoon. You suspect they want to discuss your current project. It’s an important assignment with high visibility and some office politics risk attached. The project itself is on schedule, although it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. You have been delicate but firm in dealing with the personalities involved. The first wave of expectation rolls through. You prepare to explain and defend. You review conversations and time lines in your head. You reread email chains. Just as you are about to feel relaxed, the second wave of expectation arrives. You find yourself casually making the rounds with your team members, talking with them informally, feeling them out for trouble spots in their attitudes or performance. You tell yourself that don’t expect to find anything but that it doesn’t hurt to do a little poking around. Whether or not anything is discovered, the third wave of expectation arrives. You turn to your mentor, a peer of your department’s head. You drop into their office, asking for just a moment of their time, (which they’ve always given you…after all, isn’t that what a mentor is for?) and say, “So, is there anything I should be worried about? My boss wants to see me in an hour?” The fourth wave of expectation floods the hallway as you walk towards the office itself for the meeting. It can feel like you’re swimming upstream. The fourth wave swamps you with “What ifs?” What if I’ve stepped on some higher ups toes too hard? What if the project is going to be taken away? What if I’m being downsized/terminated? What if this meeting has nothing to do with the project at all but involves me sleeping with my secretary?
- The first wave brought with it defensiveness under the guise of preparedness
- The second wave introduced suspicion
- The third wave traded on friendship for insider information
- The fourth wave didn’t warp judgment so much as it disclosed how warped it was.
These waves of expectations are invisible. They do not often rise to the level of our consciousness unless we are awake and looking for them. They do, however, have a definite and noticeable impact upon our choices and our behavior.
Another note: (yeah, I know, for heaven’s sake. Will I please stop doing this?) (That’s what I expect some of you might be saying…I’d put a smiley face here but I don’t know how…smiley again) Anyways, I only listed four waves in the examples because of the space constraints of a blog. These waves are limitless. They are self-amplifying. They can pass and then bounce back. We are not unaffected by them. But we are also not at their mercy.
Not if we’re awake. Not if we’re paying attention. Not if we’re choosing to notice ourselves and own our choices.