The Poison Of Expectation

Have you ever been on public transport and seen someone eating a really pungent snack that made the entire area smell? Recently I sat opposite a guy who had a burger that embodied that description. He evidently thought it was appropriate to bring a stinking, greasy burger

Have you ever been on public transport and seen someone eating a really pungent snack that made the entire area smell? Recently I sat opposite a guy who had a burger that embodied that description. He evidently thought it was appropriate to bring a stinking, greasy burger onto a packed commuter train. Would you ever dream of doing such a thing? Me neither.

Our expectation of what is reasonable frames our opinion of other people’s actions. In our intrinsic desire ultimately for the world to work within the confines of our perspective, we spend a considerable amount of time frustrated at other people, other environments and other versions that do not fit our standards. This is The Poison Of Expectation.

We judge all the time. Someone isn’t driving well enough. We could drive much better. Someone is walking too slowly. We always know when to walk slow or fast. Someone’s house is way too messy. Ours is never that messy. We would never let it get into that state. Taking a smelly burger onto a packed train? Disgraceful, we would never do that. And now, assuming all citizens have the right to their own opinion, perhaps the people, who are accused in the above, also have an expectation of us that isn’t being matched. We’re too busy judging to know that, of course.

Maybe burger man thinks it’s fine if others do as he does? Common courtesy is fine so long as you can define what common is and what courtesy is? These are subjective terms. Your personal hygiene standards may not necessarily be the same as the person sitting next to you on a 13-hour flight to the other side of the world. I have found.

But why is expectation a poison? After all, we’re allowed to expect certain things, right? Well, the poison isn’t about having personal aspiration; it is assuming that everyone would do what you do. The poison gets to work when we simply can’t understand how someone has done something against our expectations, as we are basing our opinion solely on our own standards. This narrow lens creates an almost guaranteed level of confusion in our heads.

The Poison Of Expectation creates toxic fumes so we get more frustrated. It designs itself to move our focus from what matters. Even when we try to pull away and think objectively, the poison knows you will ultimately base your judgment on your own opinion, and by doing so, you keep feeding the poison.

The antidote to this is a tough one as it takes reasoning of other people’s actions to disable the poison. Chuck D from Public Enemy once said, “If you can’t change the people around you, change the people around you”. Chuck’s advice suggests two things:

1. To try and change the people around you (by educating, advising, helping or setting a different example)

2. To literally change the people you are around (by moving away from those you are unable to do the above with)

So, if burger man disgusts you, move carriages. If Captain Slow refuses to drive differently, change route. If our adjacent passenger isn’t aware of the concept of washing, switch seats, use nose plugs or, (if you’re brave), offer them your deodorant. Whatever you do, the one thing that leads to an endless negative vortex is to allow The Poison Of Expectation to eat you up inside. People are different. It’s rare anyone will have the exact same standards as you.

Taken as an excerpt from ’Business Poison’ available from Amazon as a paperback and for kindle: http://jonathanmacdonald.com/books/

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