At a very young age, I remember going with my siblings and some of my cousins to the city park to play.  One such time, when we were going to be staying for a while, my aunt packed us a lunch.  When she asked what kind of sandwich I wanted, I replied with one of my most favorite concoctions: peanut butter and honey.

We went to the park, romped around and got really tired, and then it was time for lunch.  I was really excited to take a huge bite of that peanut butter and honey sandwich!  When I took the first bite and began to chew, though, I was in for one of the rudest surprises of my life… there were CHUNKS of something in my sandwich!  I had clearly asked for a peanut butter and honey sandwich, not a peanut butter, honey, and rocks sandwich.

My tender young palate was not ready for my first experience with chunky peanut butter, and if I remember right, I don’t think I even took a second bite of the sandwich.

A big part of life involves managing expectations; both managing your own expectations and managing others’ expectations.

I would have probably enjoyed trying the chunky peanut butter if someone would have informed me that it was slightly different than my regular experience with Mom’s creamy Jiffy bottle and prepared me for the different experience I was about to have.  No one ever explained to me that there was a difference between peanut butters, and no one ever prepared me for that experience.

I deal with this phenomenon often at work.  Part of my work is to validate new designs by watching individuals use them who have never seen them before.  More often than not, I can see that the success or failure of a particular design doesn’t lie in the actual quality of the design itself, but in the way I prepared the user – the things I tell them as well as the things I don’t tell them – to interact with that particular design.

When I was serving a mission for my church, my mission’s president often brought up the subject of “expectativo” or expectations.  He told the story of how during the 1980’s, missions were temporarily cut back to 18 months, and then later re-extended to 24.  He noted that those who were called for 18 months felt just as worn out and fulfilled as those who were called for 24.  It didn’t matter what the time frame was that they would serve – 18 months, 24 months, or 36 months, but they all felt the same level of exhaustion when they returned home.  The longer missions clearly should have been harder on the individual, but they weren’t.  They had simply fulfilled the expectation of exhaustion they had set up for themselves.  It’s only when someone’s expectations were changed midstream that people started getting messed up.

So I guess it’s important that we set realistic, but slightly out of reach expectations for ourselves.  It pushes us to do more than we thought we were capable of and stretches our capacities. Regarding personal expectations, I often say, “It’s better to aim for the stars and land on the moon than to aim for the tree tops and land in a pile of poo.”

Sadly, the greatest disappointments in life often come from expectations that are too high or unrealistic.  I’m thinking specifically of parents’ expectations of their children.  Surely parents want the best for their children, but the truth is that oftentimes parents and children don’t agree on what is best for them.  So perhaps we need to also leave room in our expectations of others for them to write in their own changes based on their freedom of choice.  It’s not easy to do, especially for individuals we care deeply about, but absolutely necessary so we’re not constantly beating ourselves up over things we have no control over.

Nowhere is this game of expectations more evident that with the current state of politics.

Expectations of President Bush were moderately high in 2000, but were drastically changed by the tragedy of 9/11.  In a lot of ways there was no coming back for his approval rating after the disruption of these expectations and the descending into the previously unforeseeable wars.  People felt betrayed as their expectations of this “compassionate conservative” were violently betrayed.

Obama has now been elected, and his consistent campaign based on the premise of delivering change to America is now going to be put to the test.  Expectations are wildly high among the average American.  They’ve been convinced that they are so much worse off than they were 8 years ago, and now they have assigned Obama the task of making it all better.

In truth, this promise of change will be hardest campaign promise to keep.  It is not specific, measurable, or graspable.  (Cue: How do you solve a problem like Maria?)  The government is violently resistant to change, and Obama will have to turn to people (Rom Emmanuel) who aren’t exactly poster children of change to staff his administration.  In fact, many will come in who represent everything that is wrong in politics, and people are already starting to ask themselves: how much change can this 1 term senator really bring to the table?

The media isn’t helping, either.  Last night I heard a young African-American guest on a radio program describe Obama as “…my generation’s Martin Luther King or John F Kennedy.”  Well, I have news for this guy:

Obama has yet to do anything.

Yes, he ran a campaign and consistently voted against the war, but those accomplishments hardly put him within a moonshot of those singular leaders.  He seems to be a fine individual who has much promise, but you’ll have to pardon me if I hold off on the waving of palm fronds until he actually accomplishes something besides winning the most winnable political campaign in recent memory.

Based on these sky-high expectations for Obama, I see nothing but disappointment in the future for many Americans, when they find out that the Obama they want may not exactly be the Obama they get.

15 thoughts on “Expectations”

  1. OOOOO this is a good blog. Yup, you can’t make everyone happy. I heard it said that one politician once was asked if he was elated over a 70% approval rating and he said, well there’s still 30% of the public that think I am doing a horrible job. It’s true, and the expectations are INSANE for this president. I think the inability to change quickly and instantly is actually built into the system. Someone that gets in power and changes things his way overnight is called a DICTATOR. And there is good reason why there are checks and balances in government. There is a lot left to be seen.

  2. I heard that very same interview on NPR last night, and I had to shake my head. I voted for Obama, based more on this temperament than his leadership ability. (There’s a whole blog post about that in the back of my head, if I can ever get through my homework.) But the near-reverence that the population as a whole, and the African-American population more specifically, eminate toward Obama is scary to me. If Obama can come out of the mess our country is in right now (economy, world standing, wars, health care, education) and manage to keep his promises (yeah right), make a major difference for the better in the country, and not make any major mistakes, then yes. He will be this generation’s MLK or JFK.

    I don’t see that happening. I’ll just be glad if we can have a president who doesn’t cheat on his wife, start a war, or charge around Washington like a bull in a china shop.

  3. My sister and I use to eat peanut butter and syrup sandwiches. Aunt Jemima all the way, baby! I know, it sounds horrible, but we liked it a lot. I don’t think I could abide it now, though. And . . . that’s all I got. Nothing profound on anything else mentioned (well, my comments EVER profound–I mean, really?). Brain is fried–it’s Friday.

  4. Great blog. I can’t add much except to say I never aspired to be an Olympic swimmer and never will be.

  5. I love this line: “you’ll have to pardon me if I hold off on the waving of palm fronds.” Rarely has the deck been so stacked against an incoming president. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  6. Truly, he has a tall pedestal to fall from, but I wonder how much time he will be given to try to make a difference. As you said, it will take a lot of time and the people in this country aren’t known for patience. On the other hand, they sure do have short memories, or maybe that is selective memory, or maybe it is blind forgiveness.

    Yet another great blog entry! Score one more for Brows!

  7. Hmmm…a political blog. Did you expect me to comment? No? Well, now I am exceeding your expectations. Excellent! And I love chunky peanut butter. I really can’t stand the creamy. It’s amazing to me sometimes that we can still be friends. 🙂 I wonder what Obama likes…

  8. Dear W.E. I have to come to Dallas to meet your friends I think all your female friends rock!

  9. I love this blog! I have a serious problem adjusting when things that do not match my expectations.
    I think most people in the country do. Although I know Obama is going to be facing many difficulties and
    many expectations, he has already done one thing right. He won. As a friend pointed out, our kids are
    never going to remember a time when a black man or a white woman could not be president. How cool is that!

  10. Yes Lovely Sister, please please come! And W.E., don’t hog her all to yourself when she comes. You need to share. You know what Lovely Sister? Let’s just bypass W.E. You just come and spend time with us. But now since I’ve posted this comment that won’t really work and my evil plan is foiled. Drat!

  11. W.E., BTW (like the lingo?) if I remember right, they were rocks! It’s funny how getting older changes the memory of repression and humiliation into peanuts… right Big Bro? Oh and with the all trepidation I posess, I feel the need to wax verbose on your bloggy… Both MLK and JFK were shot! Let’s hope that Obama isn’t this generations sacrifice! Besides, what did JFK do that puts him in the same boat as MLK? (cue: In ’43 they put to sea, thirteen men and Kennedy, aboard the PT109 to fight a brazen enemy…) Sorry, if you don’t follow, google Johnny Horton and be prepared to be enlighted! g2g, lol!

  12. Ok, sounds good to me. I think W.E. doesn’t care what I do when I come out there, I think he is otherwise busy, and when I do come there it’s to escape, so I can just escape him too.

  13. I am pretty sure there is ……nobody who could have been elected president who could superhumanly solve all of the problems that the die heard fans of our presidential candidates seemed to think were a total cinch if they got elected. The US is in a crappy situation and the unrealistic expectations are sooooo beyond the realm of believability that even if Obama does an OK job with what he has to work with…… there’s no way he will solve all conflict in the middle east, end world hunger, make healthcare available to all the leetle babies , fix the economy, and give the world a coke and hug. And people think he will do exactly that. SCARY!!!!!

    And I think anything crunchy in the middle of smooth is wrong and unnatural. It could be a rock or a twig. I worked at the church peanut butter factory in H-town and there is a conveyor belt to remove such things from the supply before the big smash up. Doesn’t happen too well. At least if it’s smooth you catch the rock and go -hmmm- not supposed to be there. If it’s crunchy you eat things unintentionally all the time. That’s my belief. Crunchy eaters are totally bug and twig eaters.

    There- now you know where I stand on the state of the US and peanut butter. Torgerson out.

  14. I am not dissing you, but just commenting on W.E.s preoccupation in life right now. We need to go do lot of things. I have to go to the lake! I need some texas steak. Won’t you oblige?

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