When I was in elementary school, my mother bought me a carob chip cookie.
Carob was being billed as the healthy person’s chocolate. Which I could get on board with. It even looked like chocolate. I unwrapped the cookie. Took a mouthful. And was met with utter disappointment. The carob tasted nothing like chocolate. I lost all interest in it.
I have expectations. A lot of them.
Of how cookies will taste. Or how events will unfold. Of how gifts will be received. Or how I will be perceived.
Expectations aren’t all bad. There’s nothing wrong with hoping a cookie will be tasty.
But expecting it to be just one way torpedoes a chance to appreciate the way it is.
If left unchecked, expectations can bully us around. And crowd out everything else on the playground. Leaving me nearly blind to all but two things:
If my expectations are met. Or not. Everything else falls by the wayside.
But those things in that wayside?
That’s the world. In all it’s unexpected wonder.
In 2004, Dr. Linda B. Buck, a biologist from Seattle, shared the Nobel Prize for her discovery of how we recognize and remember smell.
When the Academy of Achievement asked what she enjoyed about her work, the scientist reflected:
“It’s really when you get the answers that you didn’t expect that you learn the most…And you get ideas, and that stretches your imagination further, and I think that that’s where the greatest discoveries are made, when you find things that you never imagined.”
Expectations are shaped by what we can imagine now, what we know now.
And we may imagine a lot now. And we may know a lot now. But there is more – much more – that we can’t yet imagine. That we don’t yet know.
There are ideas, discoveries, experiences biding their time in the unimagined nooks, the unknown crannies.
And they can bowl us over. Stretch what we imagine further, what we know wider.
After receiving a lifetime achievement award, Bob Dylan looked back on his career this way:
“Times always change. They really do. And you have to always be ready for something that’s coming along and you never expected it.”
If we don’t check our expectations at the door, they can stand – hands on hips – between us and the unexpected coming along.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We can have our expectations.
Just don’t let them have you.