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Learn & Practice

Tuesday Tip: What Do You Expect?

By The Healthy Minds Team

In this week’s Tuesday Well-Being Tip, we explore examining our thoughts and listening to our inner teacher.

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

Our thoughts can sometimes be our own worst enemy, but they can also be our greatest teacher.

When we practice examining our thoughts and learn how to listen to this inner teacher, we gain Insight, the third pillar in the Healthy Minds Framework for Well-Being, into how the mind works. We see that some thoughts get us focused on the negative and other thoughts completely misrepresent what’s happening. As our insight grows, destructive thoughts naturally begin to subside – and wise, insightful thoughts start to emerge. This isn’t something we need to force. In fact, if we try to control our thoughts or repress the ones we don’t like, that usually ends up adding fuel to the fire.

For this week’s Tuesday Tip, we’ll leverage this inner teacher to practice noticing our unconscious expectations. 

As Alexander Pope said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” The misalignment of our expectations vs. reality can be a burden on our well-being. If your expectations are on autopilot, this can be even more challenging. So for this practice, we’ll practice insight to become more aware of these unconscious expectations.

You can do this by approaching situations with a few introspective questions. For example, you can ask yourself, “What am I hoping will happen here? What do I expect from this person, this situation, or from myself?”

Set a goal to pause three times each day to reflect on your expectations. It can be most useful if you try it when you’re about to start a new activity. For example, maybe you’re about to send a message to someone and you pause to explore your expectations in the moment. Maybe you’ll notice that you are hoping for a specific response, or you’re afraid you’ll get one you don’t like. Maybe you expect the person to reply right away.

The point isn’t to stop expectations from happening. The practice is to be aware of these expectations so they don’t take us off guard when they are not met, or keep us from seeing things clearly in the moment.

So give it a try. See if you can explore how expectations are shaping the way you see things. Just pause for a moment when you’re entering some new situation, and ask yourself, “What am I expecting here? What are my hopes and fears?” Then notice what rises to the surface of your mind. 

As you train your mind to be more aware of your unconscious expectations, you’ll be able to bring a more nuanced perspective to your interactions and learn from that inner teacher what story your mind is crafting, versus the reality of a situation in the moment. Good luck.

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