Skip to main content

“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.” – Charles Kettering

Or does it?! The Quest 79 February monthly event was all about Expectation.

There are two apparently ‘opposing’ dualities of thought on this. On the one hand, we are nudged that having high expectations are the key to high achievement. On the other, we find quotes such as…

“Low expectations are the key to happiness in life” and “Don’t expect things to happen. It is better to be surprised than disappointed.”

Research into happiness shows a global phenomenon; people become gradually less happy until age 47.2. The theory behind this links to expectations. The research into happiness levels of hundreds of thousands of people across 132 countries, showed an inverted U-shaped ‘happiness curve’.

The professor behind the research, David Blanchflower, explains that when we’re younger, the world is our oyster, and we have big dreams; but things don’t usually work out the way we want. He says it takes a long time for people to gain the wisdom, maturity or perspective required to quell infeasible aspirations – apparently until we are 47.2 years old!

This might be interpreted that over-expectation is a scientific basis for a mid-life crisis. Apparently, when we gradually accept that failing to achieve every dream we once held dear isn’t the end of the world, we slowly start to focus more on enjoying what we do have rather than what we don’t.

There are lots of great strategies to help counter these effects such as having close friends, not comparing ourselves to others, setting compelling goals, helping other people and feeling gratitude. For more ideas and further information click here.

So, where does that leave us with expectations? Perhaps it’s okay to have big ‘dreams’, as long as we translate them into compelling goals. Is it maybe only helplessness and lack of action that prevents us from manifesting high expectations? What if we just chunk down our big goals into baby steps?

As a great example, Sherrill Mason shared her story with us last month of how she achieved her Quest 79. She decided to swim 79 lochs in 79 hours, having barely swum for years. Sherrill has since gone on to do other open-water swim challenges and encouraged friends to shift their expectations too – many have joined her on fun, outdoor swim adventures. Be inspired by this short film about her experience on the Quest 79 You Tube channel: ‘A Lochan Hour’.

Setting high expectations but then approaching them with curiosity and intrigue is a wonderful way to achieve surprising things. If we can dream big but then take this experimental mindset, we can then avoid the drop in happiness. After all, we’re in it to see what happens and what we can learn. And we’re taking the approach of the Buddhist vacuum cleaner: it has no attachments!

If you haven’t joined us yet on our monthly Zoom event, what are you waiting for! Just pop your name on our mailing list and we’ll send you the link via our monthly newsletter.

Karen Darke

Author Karen Darke

More posts by Karen Darke