The Room of Expectation

The Room of Expectation

Happy Christmas everyone! With the holidays in full swing, I was singing “Joy to the world” this weekend at a gathering, and I couldn’t help but think “Wow. Christmas carols make me want to be a better person.” You can’t really have a bad thought when singing a Christmas carol. You don’t really think about greed, anger, resentment or revenge. And so I’m doing a little test this Christmas season, and please join me. When you get mad or frustrated or when your utility bill gets slid under your door. Sing a Christmas carol. I’d love your feedback. Just a side thought.

Now onto something else. We all love it when we sit with someone and they tell us that they are going to give us 5 billboards around the city, 10,000 flyers distributed, a rock solid website, a meeting with the President, and a 50% increase in sales all in ONE WEEK. Here’s what happens: it doesn’t matter if the task is impossible because there’s something that we have as humans that just wants to hear good news (like tooth fairies exist). We tend to gobble it up because it makes us feel like we are moving to new heights of success.

Our "expectation meter" starts to ascend into the clouds. Because of these promises, we put the the promiser into a mental room of said expectations and we lock them in there to achieve what they said they were going to achieve. It's a big room to go along with the big expectations.

When Expectations Rise

You may be standing in line at the post office to ship a package during the holiday rush and someone has told you, "It'll take 20 minutes and you'll be on your way." Without thinking twice, you have subconsciously (or sometimes consciously) opened the door to the "Room of Expectation." You've pushed the "it'll take 20 minutes" person into the room and placed a 20 minute timer on the whole situation. The room is linked to the commitment maker and the committer to the event.

Or maybe it's a potential partner who's told you that they'll have documents read and signed within a period of time. Or the mechanic who says your car will be ready by noon. All of them are in the Room of Expectation.

You wait outside the door watching as the timer ticks down to zero. (Everybody important watches time.)

Similar to deadlines, this Room has a timer. It also has labels on the doors such as "possible," "hopeful."  If the expectations aren't altered in advance via some form of communication (email or phone works, so does SMS, even a letter would be great), the timer goes off and the room starts getting re-labelled: late, unreliable, slightly frustrating, and the labels worsen as time goes on without the task or goal being achieved.

Our words and commitments put all of us in different rooms of expectation, and based on our performance the rooms get labelled.

  • Every room has a person.
  • Every room has a timer.
  • Every room has labels.

You're in a room right now if you've committed to something and so am I. What's the name attached to your room?

When we give or receive expectations, the meter is set. You can’t change it. So when you’re giving an expectation either meet it, or buffer it with a few days so you can surprise the promise receiver with a little thing called “Better then expected." You’ll go up in their eyes and you won’t be locked in a room and have to try to Houdini your way out.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Make promises that let you sleep at night and hold a happy smile all day long. If you’ve set your expectation on a false promise and you’re seething mad like I would be, then sing a Christmas carol. And next time, don’t have that person on your team.

The school bell's ringing. Time to switch rooms.

(Photo: Roey Ahram)