The Secret Cause of Discouragement

April 13, 2011

Did you have a good day yesterday?

What determines your answer to that question? Stop for a second and think about it. What makes a good day good? What makes a bad day bad?  

What if you rated every experience of your life on a scale of 1-10. Every church service, every meal, every event you attended, every activity you participated in, every meeting, and everything you read, watched and listened to. What would cause you to rate high things high? What would cause you to rate low things low?

I believe the answer is one word: expectations.

Our minds automatically create expectations for everything. When we’re about to eat a meal, our brain tells us what to expect. When we’re about to read a book, our mind predicts what it will be like. When we schedule a meeting, our mind creates expectations of how the meeting will go.  

If the meal, the book, or the meeting exceed those expectations (the meal tastes better than we thought, the book is exciting and we can’t put it down, or the meeting is far more engaging and productive than we expected) we are left thinking, “Wow! That was awesome!”

On the other hand, if the meal, the book, or the meeting doesn’t meet our expectations (the food is cold, the book is boring, or the meeting is pointless) we are left thinking, “Wow! That was horrible!”

So why do you get discouraged? Simple: when something doesn’t meet your expectations. You expected something of someone, and they didn’t come through. You expected to be healthy, and you got sick. You expected to drive to work as usual, but had a flat tire. Your experience didn’t meet your expectations.

On the other hand, what makes something really, really good? Simple: when it exceeds your expectations. You expected your normal salary, but got a raise instead. You expected a casual encounter with an acquaintance, but experienced a deep connection with a now life-long friend instead. Your experience exceeded your expectations.

You will constantly have exceeded and unmet expectations in your life. How you react to them and learn from them is vital. This is a powerful principle, and tomorrow we’ll look at how you can use it to change your life.

When have your expectations been exceeded? You can comment here.