“Unmet expectations are one of the important experiences to avoid... altering what you expect can have a surprising impact.”
In the top menu bar on vapourbeauty.com, “Our Blog” can be found under the drop-down “Learn;” how perfect. “Learning” is all I ever seem to do. Lately I’m learning about expectation.
In a close relationship I was not getting what I expected, and as a result, I was not able to receive what I was given. As I was beginning to catch-on to this unhelpful pattern that I was perpetuating, the same pattern emerged in another close relationship. Only this time, I was on the other end; no matter what I did or how much I gave, it was not being received. The other person felt deprived, because what I gave didn’t look like what they expected. It felt terrible. I was giving as much as I could and it seemed to not matter at all. I was grateful to experience the other side of the coin, and with gratitude, I worked to change my behavior.
Before all this fun learning, I could quote to you “people don’t let us down, expectations do” again and again, but I didn’t really get it until I experienced it.
The first step in changing behavior is awareness. Professor Wolfram Schultz at Cambridge University has studied the dopamine response in met and unmet expectations. According to Schultz, any cue from the environment that indicates you could get a reward triggers a dopamine response. If that expectation isn’t met, “dopamine levels fall steeply.” Interestingly, unexpected rewards release more dopamine than expected ones.
Having the “right” dopamine levels in your brain is extremely beneficial. Dr. David Rock says we can create the right levels of dopamine by managing our expectations. He agrees that awareness is the first step, “Unmet expectations are one of the important experiences to avoid, as these generate a stronger threat response. Consciously altering what you expect can have a surprising impact.” Dr. Rock has a great example of expectations around getting an upgrade for a long international flight: if you have high expectations you’ll get the upgrade, you’ll have a terrible flight if you don’t get the upgrade and be mildly pleased if you do. If you keep your expectations low, you’ll be thrilled if you do get the upgrade and okay if you don’t. Dr. Rock adds, “Keeping an even keel about potential pays off.” At the same time, Dr. Rock points out it is wise to choose to focus on things always getting a little bit better, even at times with evidence to the contrary, because that can help maintain good levels of dopamine.
I like what Vapour founder Krysia Boinis practices, and I’ll bet she has healthy dopamine levels too ,“I choose to cultivate beliefs and practices that support the outcome I desire while allowing space for results that may differ from my desire. Being open to other possibilities allows for the unexpected which may be beyond what we imagine possible and may be filled with magic.”
In this month of St. Valentine’s, I urge you to look at all of your expectations. Developing awareness around what we expect from ourselves and events is a great place to start. And look at what you expect from other people; my learning in this arena has reminded me that ALL love is a gift, or as Anne Wilson Schaef puts it, "Love cannot be created or manipulated. Love is a gift."