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Thwarted Expectation

"Thwarted Expectation" by Amy Eliza Wong, Executive Coach and Keynote Speaker

Expectation: How many times has this happened to you?

Things are flowing, you’re moving right along and getting stuff done. You’re feeling good, you’re feeling motivated. You’ve got a plan and you’re following through. Maybe it’s big deal: you’re finally going to clean the garage and you’re excited to do it. Or it may be trivial: you want to leave a dinner party at a certain time to pack for your trip the next day.

The fact is, you have a plan – either incredibly detailed or roughly outlined – and you intend to see it through.

And then you’re stopped short.

And for no fault of your own. Your car breaks down. Your mom calls and you end up having a really long conversation and lose those two hours while your kid naps. Your housekeeper no shows cause she’s sick. Your client cancels. The gym is closed. The internet goes down and you have no access to ANYTHING.

It feels like the sound of brakes skidding out.

What results?

Edginess. A pissy attitude. A sulky, sullen, and now completely demotivated you.

But all we’re dealing with is this:






It’s nothing other than this.

But we rarely notice that’s what’s causing our angst. We think it’s the thing that stopped us, but believe it or not, we’re not truly pissed at the thing. We’re pissed at the experience of thwarted expectation.

Seems pretty obvious, right? So why call attention to it?

Because underneath is a subtle flavor of should. In the derailed agenda, our WANT shifts to SHOULD.

Think about it, as soon as circumstances change and your plan is no longer feasible, to persist is futile. To be angry about it means you’ve shifted that initial desire into a place of obligation because deep down you believe getting back on track will make you feel good again. Just like you were feeling before the housekeeper called in sick.

Here’s how to avoid the frustration that puts you in a cranky mood and turns your afternoon inside out: 

Simply catch and label that you’ve just been derailed. The moment you notice you’ve been stopped short just acknowledge to yourself: “thwarted expectation.” (Or “missed objective,” or “derailed agenda”… whatever does it for you.)

Doing so activates the creative part of your brain and immediately directs you to deal with what is. Instead of holding fast to what you have been wanting to do and now can’t, you release the subtle grip of “should” from your experience and step away from negativity.

It’s fascinating, relieving, and productive. In catching and labeling the experience as thwarted you instantly shift from fighting circumstances to accepting them. You’ll move from constricted reactions to creative ideas and find opportunities you would otherwise miss. A moment to play with the kids? Time to read that book you’ve been eyeing on your night stand? Possibilities are endless when you recognize that the only reason you feel bad is because you’ve simply been derailed. Let a new plan emerge and feel just as light as you did before the thing.

Truth be told, I was “supposed” to be on a few webinars last night. I was really excited to have the time arranged after the kids were in bed. But… derailed. Xfinity outages in our area. I “grrr’d” for a moment, amusingly labeled it as thwarted expectation, and then set to work on this article. A topic I had been coincidentally contemplating for about a week now.

A perfectly synchronous thwarted expectation for a pertinent “on purpose” evening. 🙂

Now tell me what you think! Do you agree? What’s your experience with thwarted expectation? What would you lose and/or gain by trying this strategy? Please comment below and give me your thoughts. And if you enjoyed this, it would mean a lot to me if you shared it with others. 🙂  Thank you!

Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in the Sacramento, CA area committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.