The Futility of Expecting
By Ichak Kalderon Adizes, PhD.
When you were young and went on one of your first dates, if you expected to have sex it usually turned out to be a very uncomfortable date. You were pushy and manipulative. The whole scene became ugly. You expected an outcome you believed you should have been able to control.
How about at work?
You interview someone for a job. He vibrates that he absolutely expects you to hire him. He even shows a bit of displeasure if the interview goes in the wrong direction. You might cut the interview short, and surely wouldn’t hire the person.
You probably know people who go to a restaurant and are annoyed if everything does not go “as expected.” They are too aggressive, not pleasant to be around.
What is going on?
It is ok to want, but not to expect.
What is the difference?
Wanting means that you are alive and you would like to see something happen but you do not assume that it must happen. You do not assume you can and should be able to make it happen.
When you expect, when you wish, and even when you pray, somewhere deep inside, you assume that if you try hard enough it will happen. So it is up to you to control the situation. If it does not happen, you are annoyed at the other entity for not doing what you expected or prayed for. You get annoyed at God for not responding to your prayer, at your children for not fulfilling your wishes, and at your spouse for not living up to your expectations.
In truth, you are annoyed at yourself for failing to deliver what you believed you should have been able to deliver.
You must stop wishing, expecting and praying. It makes you miserable. Why? Because there is no end to wishful thinking and thus there is no end to expectations that will get unfulfilled.
Do your best to reach what you want and if it does not happen, go take a warm shower and relax. Assume it was not supposed to happen. Recognize the fact that you are not omnipotent. Realize that you can’t control everything.
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Feels disempowering, right?
Take the time and read about the flood in the Old Testament. Even God realizes he or she cannot make us righteous. It is up to us. Thus, when it rains, God brings the rainbow to remind Him to stop expecting he can make us righteous and to stop the flood. He did his best and gave us the rules, but now it is up to us. He does not expect to control us. So who are we to be bigger than God?
Put a rainbow picture in your office to remind you that no flood of emotions can produce your expectations.
Want but don’t expect.
Is that all?
Not so simple.
What if you have a spouse who repetitively, consistently does not give you what you want from your marriage? Telling yourself not to expect, not to wish, not to pray, to accept the reality although you don’t want it, it is depressing and fatalistic.
What to do?
Go get yourself a spouse who does what you want without having to expect it. Naturally. Get yourself people to work for and with you, who naturally do what you want done without you having to motivate them and expect and request and control that they do what needs to be done.
Management books tell you that one of your tasks, as a manager, is to motivate people.
The textbooks are wrong.
Don’t hire people you need to motivate, people you need to change their attitude. The management profession is not for social workers. Whom you hire should be a motivated bunch to start with. Your job is to not de-motivate them.
Get out of the prison called “I expect.” The middle name of that prison is called ” misery”
With all my love and respect,
President of Adizes Institute
Dr. Adizes is a consultatnt to top corporations and governments and is recently recognized by Leadership Excellence magazine as a top “Thought Leader” in 2008(LINK).