Diaries Magazine


Posted on the 21 September 2020 by C. Suresh

 "You know, you missed the point when you were talking about expectations."

The world has two types of people. The ones who just paste a smile on their faces and close their ears to what you are saying; and the ones who keep silent unless they can point out something wrong with what you are saying. (What are you babbling? That there are also people who only appreciate and people who can both appreciate AND criticize as necessary? Wake up and smell the damn coffee. Fantasies are only for dreams.) AND I have been endowed with a whole circle of friends who not only gleefully pounce on anything wrong but also go out of their way to FIND something wrong.

"The important thing is comparisons, not expectations."

Huh! Was that not exactly what I had said then? That the problem lay in comparing reality to expectations. Really! The depths of nitpicking people will delve into merely to find something to criticize!

I said as much and he snorted derisively.

"So, you think that comparisons are a problem only when you do it between expectations and reality? You cannot conceive of comparisons being a problem in the expectations themselves?"

What? I looked blankly at him and he continued with a snide smile.

"Of course you cannot see. Look, in your own example of math test results. Are the expectations set at a certain percentage of the total marks? Or is it set as better than most in the class or ALL in the class."

"Well, my dad..."

"Yeah, fine! He could expect anything. Say, in English your dad expected you to get 75% and you got 80%. Will he be happy with that? Even if, say, most of your class got in excess of 80%?"

Uhoh! Yeah, the chap did have a point, after all. Yes, my dad would have got after me if I had got less than 75% unless I proved everyone else got less than me. But even if I had exceeded the cut-off, it would still not have helped if everyone else had scored more than me.

As usual, he assumed that the pained look on my face was lack of comprehension and not because I was having to swallow the bitter idea of his being right.

"See, you may WANT a 50% raise in pay to meet your EMIs. You may EXPECT only a 15% raise because that is the best your company could give. You may be happy to get 18%, with the assumption that it is the best raise anyone got. Till you see someone else has got 25%. THEN you start getting unhappy."

Of course! Expectations are very seldom restricted to facts and figures, are they? You set your expectations both on the quantum as well as the relative performance and, unless BOTH are met or exceeded, you end up feeling unhappy. Not to mention the fact that the less tangible expectation is the one where you see the most problems in the future...promotions and what have you, since the chap who got the 25% raise has been rated better than you.

"What then when the expectation itself is ONLY based on comparisons?"

Uh! This guy is too much really.

"Like what?"

"Like, say, being the best designer. Or being the company with the highest market share. Or..."

Ooops! And, obviously, that would be the most stressful thing. I mean, yeah, being a better designer than you were yesterday is...controllable. It is a question on improving YOURSELF, depending on your own skill improvement and application. But better than all the others? How do you also control ALL the others and what they do? 

THAT is why I never ever tried to set those sort of expectations for myself. How it ended up was that I would assume that they were far better than they really were and screwed up all my life trying to better THAT. I mean, yeah, it sounds rather cool to be pushing yourself to up your skills but, come on, there ARE other things in life than designing and ending up chasing one thing exclusively is a sure shot recipe for a nervous breakdown. And there are those who find that becoming the best designer is merely a question of sabotaging the other guys than improving yourself, which is one of those unhealthy side effects of expectations set on a comparative basis.

"AND then there are those expectations, even about what you want to possess, based ONLY on comparisons."

Uh! Would this guy never stop?

"Like wanting to have things, be able to do things that not everyone can do. With not even a clue of exactly WHAT it is you want...merely that it should be something that others do not have."

Mmm? What was this guy blathering about?

"Which is why companies thrive on 'exclusive brands'. The value of those products is not in what YOU get...you may not even WANT it when you get it. The value is in the thought that you can have it but OTHERS cannot afford it."

Ah! Somewhat like the kings of yore having a totally unnecessary piece of cloth trailing behind them making it impossible for them to walk unless they had a crowd of people lifting it off the ground and carrying it. Train, they called it I think. They could well dispense with it and walk comfortably but THEY could afford people to carry it behind them and other could not, so...

I said as much and won a smile of approval.

"Exactly! So, you see, the biggest enemy of happiness is comparisons. More especially when you set your expectations on a comparative basis."

"Yeah! I knew I was right. THAT's why I said expectations are a problem," I said triumphantly. He snorted in disgust and left.

Now THAT was undiluted pleasure. For once, I had the last word in an argument with a friend. Quite exceeded my expectations, I tell you!

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