June 3, 2015

Expectations: High, Low, and No

You pay a visit to the doctor’s office for an annual checkup. Consider the two options below as separate scenarios, and try to measure your frustration for each one.

  1. The receptionist tells you “the doctor will be with you in ten minutes.” The ten minutes comes and goes. Eventually the doctor arrives five minutes late.
  2. The receptionist tells you “the doctor will be with you in twenty minutes” You wait for the doctor, but he/she surprises you by arriving five minutes early.

In both scenarios, the doctor arrives in 15 minutes. Yet, if you are like most humans, the doctor arriving early in the second scenario makes you happier. This may seem obvious at first, but think about it. The result was EXACTLY the same: you waited 15 minutes. Yet, numerous studies prove that being surprised on the upside makes you significantly happier! This is a TED Talk related to the matter:

Here are a few upcoming scenarios where you might find that your low/high expectations change how you feel about the actual result:

  • “Supposed to be a big pow day this weekend…”
  • “They always give terrible gifts for the holidays.”
  • “Can’t wait for NYE! It’s going to be the best party ever!”

When something beats our expectations, we are happy. But how low do we go? Set our expectations as low as possible, and we can guarantee happiness?! Maybe, but then there would be no expectation of productivity. How about really high expectations? No way – we’d all be so depressed when we underperform!

No expectations? Hah! Like that’s possible…

Expectations: High, Low, and No

Photo Credit:Jason Thompson

We chatted about setting expectations with adventure photographer and guide Jason Thompson


Questions? Comments? Let's hear 'em.