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Great Expectations – Finding the light or melting in the sun?

Expectations can guide and motivate us in the right direction, but also burn us under their searing heat.

Borrowing the title from the 1860’s Charles Dickens novel, “Great Expectations”, I wish to explore where expectations can help us and where they can weigh us down, as this has been on my mind the past week. Also, bonus points for anyone who got the INXS reference in the headline, the song “Melting in the Sun” features great expectations in the lyrics.

Our expectations are associated with our potential, opportunities, hopes, prospects and anticipations. We can give ourselves expectations or we can get them from other people and society at large. Also, things are expected from us based on our age, young and old, just ask any child protégé or mature adult. With the roles we play, these things then become more broadly associated with accountability and responsibility.

Great expectations can be placed upon us or by ourselves from a young age and sometimes these help to propel us to greater heights later in life and sometimes they end up making our lives a living hell where we can come to vehemently resent the people who put those expectations on us or strongly hate ourselves for not living up to our own.

We can’t all be God-like as Apollo (given how he is the Greek god of the sun, it’s appropriate for the metaphors used in this article which, funnily enough, I didn’t actually plan). We can’t all be great, it would cause a system error in the algorithm for greatness, and I wrote about why this is okay in another article. Great expectations can be a massive burden, but the rewards can be immensely satisfying should you manage to reach your desired outcome.

The thing is, however, it isn’t attaining the aim that makes us happy, not really. We’ll have a temporary feeling of elation, euphoria and ecstasy before going what’s next? If attainment is the end goal then the whole game collapses into a Sisyphean task, we just keep pushing the rock to the top of the hill over and over again. We are more motivated by having an aim than by attaining it, we need to know where we are going.

The key takeaway is to work out whether your great expectations are working for you or working against you. Sure, expect great things of yourself if you want, but not to the point where it creates a miserable existence devoid of joy…(quietly makes note to self haha).

I’ll leave you with this quote from Stoic Roman philosopher Seneca, “the greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today.”

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