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Mother Says: Expect Nothing to Gain Everything

Written by Micah Xu, Converge multimedia journalism intern and Junior at Gwinnett School of Math, Science & Technology (GSMST)

Expectations are a concept that we as humans place a lot of stock in when we do something. Anything, even if we don’t realize it, carries expectations with it, and that can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, if we meet our expectations, we will feel satisfied and confident in our ability to perform that specific task. On the other hand, if we fail to meet expectations, we will feel disappointed in ourselves and lose our confidence to do things.

My mother used to tell me to never expect anything from anyone, including myself. “Always try, but never expect success, even if you think you can do something, do not expect success and keep your ego in check.”

The basic idea behind this process of thinking is to become immune to disappointment. For example, if I take a test and expect to get an A, but get a B, I will naturally feel disappointed in myself, and that can lead to overcommitment to improving that specific subject while ignoring others (because of the recent failure having more impact) and/or undue stress. This can spiral out of control and lead to less productivity than if I had just not done anything at all, which is obviously not ideal.

In contrast, if instead of an A, a B was expected, then the reaction would change dramatically. I would not be as stressed, but I would still recognize my ability to improve. Instead of sprinting to get to an A, I would be jogging, and that can lead to a less stressful working experience and, in the end, a superior finished product. I also won’t hyper-focus on the subject I got a B in, because the pressure to get an A would be tempered by expectation and wouldn’t cause me to get carried away with studying exclusively math for the next few days while ignoring my writing or reading.

This philosophy is not for everyone, because not everyone is as affected by failure as others. Everybody is different, and some individuals buckle underneath the stress while others rise above the challenge and actually need the stress to continue to produce and be successful.

In the end, it is up to the individual to decide what advice works for them, as for my mother, she has this to say. “If you get disappointed, you will be sad, and if you are sad, you’ll get more disappointed. Just expect nothing, and you’ll get everything you want and then some.”