Here’s a chart that I came up with recently, about expectations about a future event and then how rewarding the event actually ends up being. The chart shows the potential emotions a person can feel with the various levels of reward (on the vertical axis) and levels of expectation (on the horizontal axis). For example, if you have high expectations that a future event will be very rewarding to you and it’s not, you will be disappointed. It is possible that you will be less satisfied in that situation than with any other combination of reward level and expectation level.
Although I believe in having a positive outlook on the future overall, I also think that there needs to be a balance with how low or high our expectations are about any one future event. Thinking that the best is yet to come and having a sense of hope for the future in general is good. But expecting too much from any one experience can lead to disappointment. Like when you have heard great things about a new restaurant and your meal turns out to be just average, you are often more dissatisfied than if you had no, or low, expectations about the food.
So, maybe we need to try to find a balance between feeling good about life overall, but not having overly high expectations about a particular event, person, thing, or place.
Accepting – low expectation and low reward. If you keep your expectations low about a potential reward and do not receive it at all or do not receive it at the level that feels rewarding, you can feel a sense of acceptance.
Elated –low expectation and high reward. This usually will mean that you will be at a higher level of satisfaction than any other of the options. You will be more likely to be pleasantly surprised and feel more gratitude when you kept your expectations low or weren’t even anticipating a reward at all.
Satisfied – high expectation and high reward. If you have high expectations and receive a high reward, you may feel satisfied, but not at the “Elated” level.
Disappointed – high expectation and low reward. This will be the least satisfying situation and may even result in feelings of loss or failure because you fully expected the reward and did not receive it at all or did not receive it at the level you wanted.