In economics, low consumer expectations lead to a decrease in consumer spending. That is, when we feel that the economic future is uncertain, we tend to save more and spend less, leading to a drop in demand. Rule #1 of economics is basically that supply and demand will always find equilibrium, so when demand drops, supply will also decrease until the new steady state is found. When suppliers decrease production, they don’t need as many workers, so the unemployment rate will rise and GDP (the total value of all goods and services produced) will also drop. When consumers hear things like “higher unemployment” and “lower GDP,” it just reinforces their negative expectations, and the cycle continues.
You’re wondering why on earth I just bored you with an economics lesson, aren’t you? Well, I used this very factual and academic lesson to demonstrate this:
Our Expectations Influence Our Outcomes
This statement is applicable in countless areas. If you take medicine with the expectation that it will work, it often will…even if it’s just placebo. If you wake up feeling like today is going to be a terrible day, it probably will be. If you are an atheist, you will live a life based on science and explanation, never daring to take a leap of faith and thus never experiencing God’s miracles or grace. No matter what the situation, our expectations will have an impact on the outcome.
I have lost track of the number of times I’ve heard people say that they lower their expectations in order to avoid being disappointed. In fact, I’ve even done this myself. It seems logical. If we set the bar low, it seems that anyone could meet our expectations, right? Wrong. The problem with this thinking is that our expectations influence our own behavior, which will in turn influence the behavior of others. If you expect the worst from people, you will treat them accordingly, which will never inspire anyone to give you their best. Have you ever been treated like you’ll never be good enough? Maybe your mom always told you that your sister was prettier or that your brother was smarter. Perhaps your boss points out everything you do wrong instead of praising you for the things you do right. How does that make you feel? If you’re competitive like me, maybe your first instinct is to prove them wrong. Perhaps you’ll really step up your game to try to show them your value. While that sounds like a solid plan, there is a problem with it: no matter how good you are and no matter how hard you try, it is very difficult to please someone with negative expectations. Even if you start out strong and are determined to change their mind, eventually their negativity will break you down and you’ll wonder why you even bother. Once in a while this may work and you may get a “wow, I sure was wrong about you!” But if your girlfriend is convinced that all men are cheaters, you can basically be Prince Charming and still stand accused.
How are you letting negative expectations influence your life? Did you fall off the wagon the last time you tried to lose weight and now you’re letting my most hated phrase (“I can’t”) live inside your head? Are you letting your negative expectations sabotage a current relationship because someone broke your heart or let you down in the past? Are you spending frivolously because you operate under the assumption that you’ll never get out of debt and you’ll certainly never be wealthy, so you might as well spend what you’ve got? Are you going to the DMV with a stank face because you assume that no visit to the DMV can ever be anything but unpleasant? Where did I come up with these examples? My own life. I’ve done all of these things, and guess what the outcomes were? CRAPPY. And I have no one to blame but myself.
Expecting the best is much easier said than done. It takes balls, guts, faith. You have to be willing to expose yourself a bit (emotionally, not physically…please don’t do that), and there is always that risk of disappointment. It’s easy to be guarded and play it safe, but if you take the easy approach you will get mediocre results at best. If you want your life to be great and you want to inspire greatness in others, you have to dare to have positive expectations and a positive attitude to go along with them. If you strive to believe the best in every person and every situation, I guarantee that you will not only get better outcomes in your own life, but also inspire better outcomes in the lives of others. Positivity is contagious…go spread some around and watch what happens!