Imagine that you are sat alone, with nothing but an ice cream. The ice cream is a flavour that you have never tried. The flavour is toffee. As you slowly move the ice cream towards your face, you are hit with the sweet, refreshing aroma that the ice cream carries. You then lick the ice cream for the first time. The flavour is amazing. The strong, sugary taste coats your mouth and the toffee taste reminds you of eating sweets as a child. After you swallow, you are pleasantly surprised by an after taste that sits on your taste buds. You make a mental note; this is my new favourite ice cream.
A few days later, you buy the same toffee ice cream. Filled with excitement, you are ready to re-live the moment. As you begin to lick, the great flavour coats your taste buds. It is exactly how you expected, and brings you pure satisfaction. Yes, the ice cream was very nice, but it wasn’t the same as last time. This is because you had expectations to how the ice cream will taste and feel in your mouth. The experience only brought you satisfaction and nothing more; it met your expectations.
The ice cream tasted so good the first time you tried it is because you didn’t know what to expect; you hadn’t set a standard that needed to be met. The ice cream was great. You were also mindful when eating it as you noted the small details of the experience.
To try and visualise the point that I am trying to get across, picture a rugby goal. The rugby goal represents your expectations. For this example, a rugby ball represents the ice cream. The first time you tried the ice cream, you had little to no expectations, so picture that the rugby goal is low. The rugby ball is kicked, and because the goal is so low, the ball soars over the bar with flying colours. This represents your first experience with the ice cream, it overwhelmed you with pleasure. Now let’s picture that the rugby goal is much higher, representing your expectations the second time you tried the ice cream. The ball is now kicked, and it reaches the same height that it did last time. But this time, the ball only just makes it over the goal, this isn’t half as impressive.
It is, however, possible to lower expectations. By being grateful that you have the ice cream in the first place, you are already content with the moment, and therefore any other positive feelings that come from eating the ice cream become a bonus. Leaving the ice cream example behind, I will try to put this theory into a different context. You are about to eat out at a restaurant for dinner, the food and service could be great, or it could be not very good at all, this applies to every restaurant, even your favourite place has its bad days. Before eating out, you remind yourself that you are happy to be fortunate enough to afford to eat out. At this point, you are already satisfied. You have now just finished your meal, it wasn’t that great, nowhere near as good as last time. But this doesn’t matter, you were already content. You are grateful that you have the opportunity to eat out, as many people do not. You are not as annoyed as you usually would be, especially after recognising that you were already content before eating out.
In some cases, especially when trying new things, expectations can bring fear and self-doubt. Think of physical exercise as an example. If you have never been a sporty person, the idea of a run produces a picture in your head, probably an image with negative connotations, maybe of yourself, maybe of something else. Firstly, as with the restaurant example, if you can reach a level of satisfaction before engaging in the sport, this will be beneficial. Remind yourself of what you are lucky to have, even the simplest things. You may find this difficult, but start small, as your confidence grows you will recognise things that you never thought you should be grateful for. You are well enough to engage in sport or physical activity in the first place, this is something that not everyone can say. Now go ahead, don’t give yourself time to rationalise doubt in your mind, go and experience the benefits of the activity with an open mind. This activity can be anything, literally anything.