The Michigan game was a set back. And lest you think I’m talking about the team here, I should remind you that most of the time I’m talking about me. After my very grown up and mature reaction to the UK game, I was full on the chip after the Michigan game.

And not just because we lost the game. Without going into all the details that are interesting to no one but me, let me paint you a picture of my experience watching this game. I watched the first half on my slingbox while eating dinner. At half time I got up to clean up after dinner, empty the dishwasher, etc. And then my wireless network went down. I paused the game and went to fix the problem. I still don’t know what was wrong with it, but it took me nearly an hour and a half to get it fixed.

Once it was fixed I went back to the game, only to discover that my brother was watching the game through my slingbox. He said it was a close game, which meant he was watching it in real time and I had, in effect, missed the entire second half. I went into the other room, turned on the TV, and we WERE DOWN BY 4! IN OVERTIME!!!!!

I had no idea what happened. I watched us clunk our way to a lose via the freethrow line, but I was angry and depressed. Both because of the outcome and because I was caught completely off guard.

It took me an entire evening of stewing over this loss to get realize why I was so upset. It comes down to one word and has very little to do with the game it self.

Expectations.

The single greatest factor in any one person’s life is expectation. What you expect to happen completely controls your reaction to what actually happens. And this controls your mood and out look on life.

To prove my point, here are a few examples.

When I was an undergrad I was an RA. We used to have meetings everyweek in our supervisors room. She always had a jar of Peanut m&m’s on her desk and I would walk in, grab a handfull, toss them in my mouth and enjoy the chocolatey goodness. One day, around Christmas her jar was filled with the red and green holiday assortment. I grabbed my usual hadnful threw them in my mouth and bit down. On mints. It was disgusting. I had to run to the water fountain to wash the taste out of my mouth. All because I EXPECTED them to m&m’s. They were prefectly fine mints, but as I wasn’t expecting mints my reaction was severe and negative. If I expected them to be mints I would have been delighted.

I worked with a woman once who, again around Christmas, got a gift from a student. It was a piece of white chocolate with a raspberry center. It was homemade and in the shape of a flower. She had missed lunch, was famished and had about 2 minutes to eat so she ran into the teachers lounge and took a HUGE bite. It was soap. She tried to wash her mouth out, but the water just made the soap turn into foam and bubbles. It took a good five minutes to get it all out of her mouth. Unlike with the mints, there’s no way she would have enjoyed eating the soap, even if she knew it was soap, but if she hadn’t expected to be giving chocolate by her student (which is what most teachers get from most students) she would not have tried to eat it.

Expectations are crucial to more than just food and Christmas stories, though if you would like to see it in effect aroudn Christmas again, I suggest you watch Love Actually and pay attention to the scene where Emma Thompson opens her Christmas present from Alan Rickman.

Consider this scenario. You take a final exam. You leave the class feeling like you nailed it. You feel confident about your responses and are sure you got an A. You get the test back and you got a C. How upset are you?
Now, think of the same situation, only you thought you bombed it. How happy are you with that same grade?

Remember when the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Bears a few years ago and Dennis Green went off in the press conference after the game? If not, here it is. You know why he’s so mad? You guessed it. Expectations. He knew what to expect from the Bears in that game, game planned accordingly, and expected to win. He was right about what to expect from the Bears, but he still lost. If he knew what to expect from the Bears and was wrong he would have been surprised. If he had known what to expect from the Bears and expected that his team wouldn’t be able to match up, the loss would not have bothered as much as it did. His expectations informed his reaction.

Which brings me back to the Michigan game. As a rule, I’m suspicious of any Michigan team that people expect to be good. The last decade has backed that up pretty well. I expected us to be competitive against Michigan. I really thought we would win that game going in. The first half was great. Not only were we playing really well, but I was being proven right. When I came back to the game I was shocked. I was mad I had missed whatever happened and I was really mad that the new expectations I had developed by watching the first half were the exact opposite of the current reality.

My expectations of playing a competitve game against Michigan were completely accurate and fulfilled. My adjusted expectations based on our first half were what really messed me up.

So, let this be a lessen to you. Only expect bad things to happen. At worst, you’ll be right. At best you’ll spend a lot of time reacting positively to the most modest of successes.

Here’s a theme song all about expectations. Plus a great guitar riff.

Also, for your total lack of interest.

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