The Art of Dodging Disappointment


Managing your expectations is quickly becoming the “go to” advice of the year. Seeing a new guy — manage your expectations. Trying to make a baby — be patient and manage your expectations. Excited to see Fifty Shades of Grey in the movie theater — whoa, really, really manage your expectations… all of them.

It’s easy to say and hard to do. But when we don’t manage the fluttering heartbeat that makes every moment of anticipation the most exciting part of our day/week/life, we risk inducing an emotional cardiac arrest that throws both our plans out the window and our lives off-balance.

So how does one put this buzz kill advice to use? Zenfulie breaks it down to these four points:

1. Know that no one will ever exactly give as much of a shit as you do — and that’s okay.
I once went to a dinner and split a bowl of udon soup between 5 people. I hated the idea and I’ll never do it again. But it made my girl happy to make us all try that damn soup and in the end that was good enough for me.

We’ve all done things like this for people and one way to manage your expectations is to realize that people will do this for us too. Whether it’s a solo or a team effort, no one is going to care about your end goal with the same intensity that you do. It doesn’t mean they don’t care at all or they care too much; they just won’t care exactly the same way that you will.

So expect this — anticipate potentially going it alone for a little while until the yummy soup comes out for everyone to see. Don’t take it personal when you see blank faces across the table and resist getting discouraged if you can’t get the exact responses you want out of people. The truth is, if they are willing to split the soup with you to begin with, even if only with a mild bit of enthusiasm, they actually support your crazy ass idea, anyway.

2. Your obstacles are your road map — learn them.
This is the step people like to avoid when they start working towards a goal. For example, it’s easier to think that after a bad break up, a few more dates will deliver Mr. Right to your front door. The truth is, you’re gonna need to heal up some shit before you even know what Mr. Right looks like (after all, you’re the one who picked the previous Mr. Wrong.)

Knowing your obstacles is like knowing your enemy — it’s important if you want to win. When we chase after our expectations without any honest reflection on what it will take to get there, we run smack into pit falls pretty quickly. For example: Getting over Mr. Wrong might be necessary before you are ready to meet Mr. Right — and you shouldn’t dodge that work. You’d be better off signing up immediately for whatever you need, for however long it will take — therapy, some tears, multiple cases of wine, a few “get under to get overs”, etc..  Once you line up all the obstacles, you can knock them out, one by one, in no time.

3. Try to keep it real
It will always take you longer than 1 week to lose 20 lbs. Employers will always prefer you to be the top performer before giving you a promotion. And Hollywood can’t possibly show a scene the way you have imagined it while reading your books (take note 50 fans…)

If you want to really meet your expectations head on and successfully, then you need to give your goal a reality check. When we don’t give what we want the proper space and time it needs to come to fruition, we are only cock blocking our selves. Often, we get caught off guard by how unrealistic we have been with our expectations, letting a swell of disappointment take over or maybe we quit the expectation altogether. However, if you can take some time before you really dive in, and have an honest understanding of how things really work, you’ll better manage any chance for disappointment and being completely dissuade.

4. Be prepared to throw it all away
I spent all of this past Saturday making an illustration for Zenfulie. By the end, I began to hate everything I made.  Not because it turned out awful at all — I actually just didn’t like it. And if I had to be really honest, I knew around two hours in that I wasn’t going to like it — which is probably why I stopped and took a nap. But instead of reconciling that I was making something I just didn’t believe in, I kept bulldozing ahead because it was an expectation I had set out to meet.

Sometimes in the middle of chasing down something that we want, we find that we no longer want it anymore. It’s like, the closer we get to our expectation, the more details begin to fill in on the canvas— painting the picture even clearer for us to understand. And with that additional information, sometimes we find that we don’t really want what we see — which can be just as valuable to us as well.

If you do the three bullets above in the beginning of every expectation you set, you can likely avoid this misstep. But if you can’t, and it happens anyway, just try not to judge it. We can only do what we know how to do when we begin on a journey. The best we can do afterwards is gently stop what we’re doing, gather what we learned, and reset our course for something even better.


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