You can learn the secret to creating the joy of expectation while eliminating the pain of disappointment.

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“Hope is not a substitute for expectation.”
Don E. Smith

Expectations are the lifeblood of your existence. A single expectation can influence a decision, create an industry, drive innovation, initiate a relationship and, ultimately, change the world.

Simultaneously, an expectation, if unfulfilled, can be demoralizing. 

Why is there such a thin line between experiencing either exhilaration or devastation from an expectation?

The answer lies in the foundation of your expectation. Whether you experience joy or frustration will depend on how your expectation is conceived, nurtured and brought to life.

All expectations spring forth from one of two sources, either from something Promised to you or Imagined by you.

The odds of experiencing a joyful life are directly proportionate to the degree you manage your expectations. Let’s look at how.


What is a promise?

A promise is a declaration or assurance that someone will definitely do, give, or arrange a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen. A promise will lead you to create an expectation based on the good grounds from someone for you to reasonably expect a certain result.

Sounds simple, fair and reasonable. Doesn’t it? And it should, in an ideal world. I highly doubt that I am the first to point out to you that we do not live in an ideal world.

Why do your expectations, based on promises people make to you, sometimes end in disappointment? 

Because people are not infallible. They often make promises to gain future favor without knowing if fulfilling the promise is fully within their means.

Is it your fault if someone makes a promise to you that raises your expectation only to “let you down” by not delivering the promise? “No” and, to some degree, “Yes”.

It has long been my belief that, “Success happens when the result of an intention meets or exceeds a reasonable expectation.” Please note my emphasis on the word “reasonable”. 

It may be fairly reasonable for you to take someone at their word when they make you a promise. Assuming positive intent and giving someone the benefit of the doubt is a fundamental step in building a lasting relationship. Developing and displaying trust in another person is a healthy, critical human behavior. The trust you place in someone else will expand or contract depending on your experience with their PPA (Promise Performance Ability).

As your experience grows with each individual, you will develop either increasing or decreasing trust in the promises they make to you. Intellectually, you could create an EDI (Expectation Delivery Index) for your relationship with that person.

This index (EDI) could have a measurement for each promise that lets you calibrate the reasonableness of the expectation blooming from that promise. Some measurements might be:

  • How much control do they have over the promise?

  • Are they likely to follow through on the promise?

  • Is the promise being made exclusively to you?

  • Are the elements of the promise specific and clear?

Life and experience with that individual will help you develop other benchmarks for use in calibrating your EDI for them regarding future promises.

If your boss promises you a raise, but does not have full authority to deliver on that promise, how reasonable is your expectation? If it doesn’t come to fulfillment, how devastated should you be?

The reasonability of an expectation based on a promise from someone else is subject to multiple variables. The more these variables are beyond your control and theirs, the lower the reasonability of your expectation should be. One way to increase the reasonability of your expectation becoming fulfilled, is to do whatever you can to help the person making the promise, keep their promise.

If your boss promises you a raise, do everything you can to make sure that when the raise is proposed you are seen as deserving not just by time accrued, but in your productivity, creativity, dedication and reliability.

But what about the promises you make to yourself?


Have you ever made a promise to yourself? 

How does it make you feel if you keep it?How does it make you feel if you break it?

Promises you make to yourself spring from your imagination.

Let’s say you believe you are due for a raise. You then create an expectation based on that belief. This expectation blooms 100% from your vivid imagination. To fulfill this expectation, you will need to make a promise to yourself. A promise you will not break.

The promise must be a reasonable promise. To be reasonable, it should be a promise over which you have complete control, falling within your current skillset and resources. Unless you recruit the aide of others, you will be completely alone in this endeavor. Self-reliance will be the fuel in your expectation engine. Whether you eventually fulfill your expectation or not, the result will not come as a devastating shock. Because, throughout the process, you will know if you’re getting close to actuality or are still miles from your destination.

Remember, it’s your promise, your expectation, and your compelling dream. You will need to do everything you can to have the highest personal EDI possible when it comes to the promises you make to yourself.


Whether your expectation ends in a celebration of joy or the wretched pain of disappointment, it will be determined by the degree of intentional focus you bring to bear on your promise. If the promise is from someone else, you have a responsibility to help them in every way you can to keep that promise. 

If the promise is one you make to yourself, the same behavior applies. Honor that promise. Do everything within your power and ability to keep the promise and fulfill the expectation you’ve created.

People make promises to others and themselves and “hope” they will keep them. That seems to be the overall strategy. As you may know, I am not a big believer in “hope”. I believe a promise deserves the intention of the expectation it creates. 

All promises are vaporware. But a promise will lead you to imagine a compelling future in which you will experience something you might not be able to get for yourself either with your resources or skills. The difference between a Great Expectation and an unmet expectation is not in the promise made, it is in the ability of the promise maker to be full of intention and committed to fulfilling the promise.

Remember this the next time you raise an expectation.

Thanks for your support as a reader of my blog and I eagerly welcome any comments on how you’re thinking about achieving the possibility of your promise. Also, I would appreciate any suggestions you might have for future posts in this blog on a topic near and dear to you in the comments section below. As always, please feel free to share this post with a friend or colleague.

To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz