“I won 50 Elo this month, so I should win at least 50 Elo next month.” “I’ve beaten them 5 times already; obviously, I will win again.”
Those are just 2 examples of a bias we all fall for. It is human psychology. Once we have something, we expect to have at least the same in the future. It happens with money, status & chess ratings.
The problem is that money, status, or chess ratings are not granted. Just because you earned it once, doesn’t mean that you will earn the same or more in the future. And your recent good results might be the product of luck or variance.
Rising expectations with a nearly inevitable fall in real-world results lead to frustration.
Only for a tiny percentage of humans does the common solution “just work harder and don’t fail” work.
Warren Buffet & Magnus Carlsen might be part of this exclusive club. They are so good at what they do that they can keep setting higher goals and still achieve them.
For us mere humans, this is a recipe that guarantees disaster.
What works instead is reducing our expectations. The equation is rather simple:
Reality – Expectations = Well Being
The lower your expectations, the higher the chance you have to exceed them and feel happy with your results.
I’ve worked for years with a sports psychologist on my expectations. Too long did I suffer from sky-high expectations and a lot of disappointments because of them. There are some strategies to manage expectations, but they require a lot of internal work, and they only partly work.
Instead, I will propose a much more radical change.
Get rid of expectations altogether. Don’t project results into the future. Do your best, focus on what you can control, and accept whatever the result is.
My mantra now is:
Ambition without Expectations.
I don’t expect my spouse to wash the dishes after cooking. This way, I’ll be positively surprised if she does it.
I don’t expect to wake up healthily every morning. This way, I’m grateful whenever I do.
I don’t expect my loved ones to be around forever. This way, I appreciate them as long as they are.
I don’t expect my business to grow. This way, I’m thankful for every customer.
I know this might sound woo-woo. Or unrealistic. But it has been a game-changer for me.
Am I enlightened now? Hell no. I still expect stuff way too often. And I get slapped in the face when I do. But whenever I remind myself of Ambition without Expectations, I can focus on the things I can control without getting upset or sad when things don’t work out immediately.
Try it out yourself. Play chess without expecting good results. Just because you won 5 games in a row doesn’t mean you’ll win the 6th.
The only thing you should expect of yourself is to do the best you can in every single moment. That’s all you can control. Leave the rest up to fate, chance, or god, whatever you believe in.
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