Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop

Intentions vs Expectations

Harvard Professor Dr Robert Rosenthal[1] set up a study that involved 300 children who had equal academic abilities. The children were divided into two groups. One group of students was given to teachers who were told the children were all high achievers. The other teachers were told that the children were underachievers. By the end of the year it was found that both groups lived up to the labels that were placed upon them. The high achievers were doing very well while the class of underachievers were doing below average work.

This is one example where expectations can determine a person’s perception of themselves so it’s only natural to assume that having high expectations is a good thing, they make us stretch ourselves, but there is a downside. High expectations can lead to criticism, of ourselves and others, when we fall short. When we shame ourselves for failing it only makes matters worse.

Rules are expectations we place upon ourselves and others. Some people have rules around the way they should look, the home or area they should live in, the work they do, how successful they should be, or whether they should be married or not by a certain age. In these instances expectations create stress and they make it harder to succeed because they come from a place of judgement.

Intentions on the other hand are what we intend to create or achieve. They indicate preferences that do not have expectations attached to them. If we succeed then obviously we will be happy that we attained our goal. If we don’t succeed in the way, or time frame that we imagined, we are flexible enough to adapt with what is. We flow with life and often life takes us in a different direction to what we imagine.

When ego controls our choices and actions, we need to achieve our goals, it’s a matter of saving face, or proving we are good enough.

Intentions represent our dreams, the ideal life we would like to live. Even when we aren’t  clear on how we can achieve that dream, we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to bring it into our lives, BUT we also accept that we don’t always get what we want in the way that we want it. Setting intentions requires us to act as if we have faith and trust.

There are many famous figures such as Oprah and Louise Hay who never set out to achieve what they did, they just did what they felt led to do. Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, started her business to provide a living for herself and her children while her husband was trekking across the Americas. She ended up creating an international chain of stores that supported human rights.

Intentions are fluid, they clearly state what we would like in life but aren’t attached to the outcome. We are open that life may have different plans for us, often bigger plans than we ever imagined. We accept 100% responsibility for our own happiness, which is not based on having your expectations fulfilled, and we remain open as to how our dreams will manifest.

Expectations can be ego based, they represent our self worth. Intentions are neutral and are separate to us.

When we think about what we want all of the time, our focus is usually on what’s missing.  When we act as if we have faith, even when we don’t feel particularly confident, and accept 100%  responsibility for achieving our dreams, we live in the moment and have a more balanced perspective of the world.

Expect the best by all means, just be flexible and open as to how and when opportunities will show up.

[1] The Self Fulfilling Prophecy article, http://www.drmadelinedaniels.com/2007/02/07

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