Stress Management: The Power of Expectancy

On a beautiful summer day years ago, I went water skiing with some new friends. I hadn't skied in a while, and as I floated in the water with long pieces of wood strapped to my feet, here's what I remember thinking:

"I wonder if I remember how to do this." "Will I be able to get up?" "How soon will I crash?"

The rope tightened and I got up like I'd been doing this for years, began to ski and sure enough, the next thing I knew - crash - face full of lake.

Here comes the point of the story - As I floated in the water, waiting for the boat and the rope to come back around, I realized that the only reason I had crashed was because I had expected to crash.

The Power of Expectancy

The power of expectancy shapes our lives. I've found that most of us have either a negative expectancy (things won't work out) or a positive expectancy (things usually work out). There doesn't seem to be a middle ground.

Expectancy controls what we focus on, and what we focus on usually comes about.

Eeyore Expectancy

I call people that always focus on the negative "Eeyores." For those of you who do not have kids or don't remember the story, Eeyore is a donkey in the Winnie the Pooh story that mopes around, head hung to the ground, moaning and groaning about life.

The Language

"It's just too good to be true"

"I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop" There are times when we are so sure that the other shoe is going to drop that we throw it down ourselves.

"If something bad can happen, it will, and it will happen to me."

The Outcome

The outcome of "eeyore expectancy" is usually fairly lousy. Even if good stuff does happen, it's easy to miss with your eyes dragging the ground. You get what you focus on.

Positive Expectancy

Here's what positive expectancy is not:

burying your head in the sand and saying "everything will be all right."

a glorified form of denial

a new term for "positive thinking"

I don't believe in "positive thinking", at least not in the way it's commonly portrayed. Example: while it's pouring rain, walking through the rain saying "It's not raining, it's not raining, it's not raining," will get you soaked!

Positive expectancy IS an attitude. It's an attitude that goes something like, "whatever happens, not only will we figure out a way to handle it, we'll also find a way to make it work for us."

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