…how we manage expectations applies to everything, from dating to job searches to what presents we’re going to get for our birthdays.
…“It’s so central to our lives,” said David Rock, author of “Your Brain at Work
…There are two sides of expectations — what we expect from others and what we expect from ourselves. And how we manage those expectations is critical to how we view our experiences and pursue our goals.
…there is a physiological reason we are disappointed when life does not meet our expectations. The neurotransmitter dopamine is released in our brain — and makes us feel good — when something positive happens.
…Take an event as mundane as crossing the street. We push the button and expect the light to change in maybe 30 seconds. If it takes five seconds, “there’s a pleasant release of dopamine, and a general feeling of well-being,” he said, even if it’s only fleeting.
…The downside is that when our expectations are not met — let’s say it takes a minute for the light to change — our negative feelings are much stronger than the good feelings we get when expectations are exceeded.
…Which is a real shame. As Mr. Rock explains it, “If we expect to get x and we get x, there’s a slight rise in dopamine. If we expect to get x and we get 2x, there’s a greater rise. But if we expect to get x and get 0.9x, then we get a much bigger drop.”
…“When we don’t hit our expectations,” he added, “our brain doesn’t just get slightly unhappy, it sends out a message of danger or threat.” That suggests that the cliché “hope for the best but expect the worst” has a lot of truth.
…But not always. “The takeaway message,” Mr. Rock said, “is to be adaptive.”
…Understanding what is in your control and what is not is crucial in managing expectations. As a job hunter, say, you may know it is tough to find a position in these economic times, and you cannot do anything about that. You can have unreasonable expectations at two extremes: an expectation of being hired quickly or an assumption that you will never work again.