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Positive expectation is, er,… positive.

But general expectations can act as filters that limit our ability to see.

We filter information because we couldn’t possibly take in and process everything our senses can pick up, that is as it should be. Expectations (or assumptions), add an extra filter. We are more likely to see or notice things that we expect, than those we don’t. So living in the comfortable and predictable space defined by our expectations means that we tend not to notice the unexpected, unless it is quite dramatic.

But this trammels our thinking and our observations, so it limits possibilities, creativity and inspiration. It also means that we are limiting vital information. Take for example a misbehaving child. By fixating on the problem we are likely to miss all the times when the child acts more positively. This is so extreme in some cases that when I have asked complaining parents for examples of their child’s positive behaviour, they respond by saying that there aren’t any! How can you coach a child towards more productive conduct if you cannot first identify the habits you want to help them develop?

This happens in any area you care to think of; what we find is shaped by what we expect to find.

So what to do? Start here:

  • Let your assumptions and preconceptions go a bit. Start with anything you absolutely  ‘know’ about someone or something.
  • Be curious about exceptions. When the the predicted situations NOT occur.
  • Wonder about irrelevant details, they may lead to the seeds of something new.

Most of the time going along with our expectations will be fine, but sometimes, particularly when an unwanted situation keeps occurring or a solution evades us, the problem is in our thinking. We are seeing what we assume will happen rather than what is actually happening.

In other words, we don’t get the full picture when we have already painted an image in our imagination.

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