April 08, 2022

When I checked my early morning feeds, I came across a video of a cocker spaniel playing with a ball.  There was a life-sized bronze statue of a man slightly leaning forward as he sat on a bench.  The spaniel ran into the frame and dropped the ball at the man’s feet.  The dog stared at the ball in expectation for the man to pick it up and throw it.  The dog then looked up at the man hoping to get his attention.  Getting no response, the dog grabbed the ball, ran through the legs, and then dropped the ball again, again waiting in expectation for the man to pick up the ball and throw it.  Despite the dog’s expectation, the statue never picked up the ball.

When I looked online, I found despite what common sense may tell you, research shows people are surprisingly inept at predicting how we will feel in various situations, and that reality and expectation often differ greatly.  Charles Dickens’ novel, “Great Expectations” illustrates the problem.  The main character, Pip, inherits money from a secret benefactor and views this fortune as a steppingstone to marrying the girl of his dreams.  He ultimately learned money was not necessarily part of that larger plan, and he realized the important relationships and gifts in his life that he had taken for granted.  His expectation robbed him of appreciating his reality.

I had mentioned how I had first tried to transfer the beans for the beanbag chair outside and managed to get them all over the pool deck.  One of the difficulties was the beans were so light on full of static they jumped and repelled each other in the light wind.  While I was not happy about losing the beans, Zena was ecstatic.  The very thing that exasperated me was what made the beans so fun to play with for Zena.  She would crouch in front of one of the tiny beans, and pounce as it blew around on the deck.  The best part for Zena seemed to be the expectation that the bean was going to move.

THOUGHTS:  Research shows we do not fully appreciate what we have when we expect more, or when we compare what we have, to what we could have.  One study found participants given a subliminal reminder of wealth spent less time savoring a chocolate bar than subjects who were not reminded of wealth.  The study reminds us to try to savor our chocolate (lives) more and not dwell on what we do not have.  The study also shows how our thoughts color our enjoyment of what we have.  During the height of the pandemic, we lamented the loss of normal activities.  Like Pip, we allowed our expectation to rob us of appreciating our reality.  As Garth sang, “Life is a dance you learn as you go.”  Expectation should enhance, and not hinder, the dance.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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