Every year, at the very end of the year, during the last days of December, I try to find a sort of motto that I should live by for the coming 356 days. Often, the motto is not even written by me; it may be a famous sentence, quote, or verse of a song that inspired me at that particular moment of the year.
I do not have a real archive of this yearly routine, so over the years, I have forgotten almost all my mottos, except one — a very classic motivational one but not that mainstream — “expect the unexpected.” I do believe that it is such a smart sentence that I am really into it every year, not only on the designated one.
I think that there are several ways of reading and interpreting these three words together. If you are a very forward-thinking person, you might think that the unexpected is something concrete, maybe connected to your career. Expect what you think you cannot reach and you will arrive at the top of that mountain. It could be about exceeding one’s career expectations, for this first interpretation of a career challenge. This might be one way of looking at it.
To me, of course, it is exactly the opposite. Instead of thinking only about the same career path. Rather than moving only in a vertical direction, I definitely prefer diagonal or horizontal moves or even completely changing dimensions, like quitting a corporate job for a freelance career.
Expect the unexpected, in my point of view, means you can turn the situation upside down and read the story in a completely different way than the secure vertical path.
This multi-dimensional and multi-direction point of view is an inner characteristic of optimist people, who seek to transform even the worst situation into a positive life change. In order to do this, the situation analyzer must be very creative and, in some cases, think outside the box, creating new directions that did not exist before, without expectations, just living in the present.
Another point of view is strongly connected with the feeling of deserving — I expect this because I deserve it. Usually this “deserving” feeling might be accompanied by another strong feeling, envy — You do not deserve it, I deserve it.
Most of the time, expectations have to be considered as a complex path to the future involving several people and not just our will. That is why it is so difficult sometimes to bet (yes, it is definitely a bet) on other people, because we change ideas, we met new people, discover new things. On the other hand, we may not learn anything and strongly want to stare at the same tiny point without a move, without progress.
Recruiters or prospective clients might not choose us, friends and family might be selfish and disappoint us, again and again.
Can we see the full picture?
Take a look at the route you have been walking on. Is this what you were expecting 10 years ago? 5 years ago? Could you ever imagine what happened in 2016? Unless you are Nostradamus, I guess we all know the answer to these questions.
Expectations are a straight route that we build in order to create our future while living in the present, forgetting that we do not know what is going to happen from a macro to micro point of view.
How can we transform the disappointment of not having reached the goals we were expecting?
The right approach is to move from blame to the analysis, not why but how, consider what went wrong and what was different. This is an interesting way of moving ourselves from a guilty state of mind into a discovery state of mind, exploring the causes not as a court but as a human being, and accepting real life instead of living for the expectations.
These considerations do not mean at all that we have to stop planning. Planning is good, fixing goals is good too, but setting expectations is very different. Expectations are shaped around someone else’s choice; they involve decisions that we don’t take, we are passive subjects.
Disappointment is the worst enemy of expectations.
We should work on that, transforming frustration into acknowledgement, learning a new life lesson every time we fail.
When we start considering all the possibilities, expecting the unexpected, it will be fair to imagine a disappointment-free future.
I prefer “expect the unexpected” rather than “carpe diem” because the former has a more prospective sense in that carpe diem does not exist by focusing on a single instant of the present.
Sometimes, this complete sense of the past, the present, and the future, makes it almost impossible to be surprised, not to expect something, which is the only disadvantage of this state of mind.
In the end, this mood can really transform how we act and fight for our future. We could be free of the fear of failure because we will accept the consequence of the unexpected routes.
The “expect the unexpected” philosophy leads to the freedom of choice and the freedom of others people judgment, creating a future full of possibilities, accepting that whatever will be, will be; the future’s not ours to see, que será, será.
Originally published at medium.com