Saturday we were able to spend the first of two days in Yellowstone National Park. As we drove and walked through the area we were struck over and over again at how beautiful it was. Everywhere we looked we saw nature is its purest state. We saw wild buffalo, deer, antelope, lots of birds, a couple dead raccoons on the road (it can’t all be pretty!) and amazing rock formations poking through the trees.
The thing I had wanted to see more than anything on this trip was Old Faithful. Ever since I was a little kid I have been fascinated with the idea of a geyser – especially one that had such a huge and timely explosion! When we drove into the park yesterday I thought the trip would be worth it just to see that thing go off.
Well, it was neat, but it was not what I had expected. I was looking forward to hearing a large roar as it spewed water and steam hundreds of feet into the air. I saw steam, and it did throw it quite a ways up, but at the end of it I felt a bit of disappointment. It just wasn’t what I had expected. I built it up bigger in my mind than I should have.
Expectations can be dangerous things or good things. It all depends on how we look at them.
Expectations as a Standard of Behavior
As a manager, I set expectations for my employees. These expectations are very result-oriented and at the end of a given day, they are very quantifiable. I can look at the work that was accomplished and say “pass” or “fail”. There is not a lot of wiggle room in these expectations because they are based on standards of behavior, conduct, and processes. Basically, the phrase “Work Rules” has been replaced with “Expectations”.
These expectations can be written out, education can take place, training can be given and evaluated, and then the result should be that what you want is what you get. If it isn’t what you get then repeat the cycle until you either get it or get rid of the person that doesn’t! Overall it is not a hard concept to understand and the results are pass/fail. They can be disappointing or encouraging, but can almost always be changed for the future.
Expectations of the Heart and Mind
These are the tricky ones. You can do everything right. All your prep work, all your training, and all of your in the moment work can be done correctly, but when it all shakes out – calamity. Why? When you do the work required, and are eagerly anticipating an expected result, why is it that we face disappointment?
1. We don’t understand as much of the picture as we think we do. – I thought I would hear a thundering roar and see water and steam shoot hundreds of feet in the air. I didn’t realize just how much change has taken place in Old Faithful over the course of my lifetime. Old Faithful would now be more aptly named Mostly Reliable. My expectation was based on my understanding rather than fact.
2. We aren’t in control of the situation. – In reality, we are rarely in control of a situation, but we like to pretend that we are. It gives us a sense of power and comfort when we feel like we have hold of the wheel. The truth is, even on the greatest ships on the ocean the captain can call for a direction change, but somebody else has their hands on the wheel. He just has to trust that his directions will take place. Sometimes they don’t.
3. We are unrealistic in our expectations. – We know what we want, and we work to get to that point, but we allow our desires to cloud our view of reality. We think that if we try hard enough and believe enough, we can shape the reality to fit what we want.
4. We forget to talk to God about things. – I want to break things down here a bit. I don’t think that God would have made Old Faithful roar like a freight train and spew multi-color water just because I asked Him to do it to make me happy. I do believe that God does things for His children to make them happy, but I think He probably would have taken a different approach with me on this.
If I had really talked to Him about my happiness and how it would have been tied to a spitting geyser, He might have caused me to think about the situation and ask myself if it really mattered that much to my joy in Him and His creation. He might have asked me to think about how my family might feel if I showed more delight in a steam plume than my time with them. He might have shown me all of that and more until I realized that I didn’t need a geyser to make my vacation grand. I just needed to be amazed at His creation!
I’m glad that I had been thinking over and over how amazing His handiwork was as I had been driving through it. When the geyser gave it’s last spit, I was able to shift gears pretty quickly to another amazing thing I saw that day. Thinking about that saved my attitude, and allowed my family to experience a much nicer me than the pouting one that could have shown up.
Relentless Growth requires us to look at our situations and our expectations through God’s filter rather than our own. That is where we will see how He is working in our lives and bringing us closer to Him.
By the way, yes. I used one of those Facebook article titles to try and increase readership. Did you get what you expected?