The case for and against expectations.

goals mindset Aug 29, 2023

We are taught that this world is explainable and has a reason for everything. The moon's phases, weather, and even math (inside joke) have logical reasons for being. Then, a grade school teacher tells us that if we work hard, our efforts will be rewarded, and our parents back this up. Our lives take root in this "fair exchange" of "If I do that, this will happen."


And then, one day, we pick up a leash and decide we want to show, and logic goes right out the window. We take a beautifully trained dog into the ring, only for the proverbial wheels to fly off before the first turn. It's as though neither of us has ever trained a day in our lives.


"But my dog was trained! We were ready!"

"I don't know what happened."

"My dog knows this stuff."

(Insert your favorite saying here.)


What happened are expectations. Heck, we now live in a world where two-day shipping is too slow. Expectations are unforgiving little buggers and allow zero room for flexibility or (gasp!) surprises. We want a nice, orderly, predictable path to our goals. We want to make a deal - an exchange - do this, get that. So what happens? Are we not allowed to have expectations? Can we not reasonably expect things to go a particular way?


We apply the same approach when we come across a problem. "Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it!!!" We beg for the prescription; we want to know what we need to give in order to get.


Well, of course, you know dog sports (and most of life!) doesn't work this way. Yet, we still get surprised and disappointed and let down and frustrated. We want it to be easier, more straightforward, and predictable.


You know what I'm going to say: it doesn't work that way. Sports are exciting exactly because we don't know what's going to happen. We can watch Simone Biles return to the floor and still be surprised by her performance.


What's that you say? Good surprises are fine, but the bad ones aren't? I get it. But it's two sides of the same coin. There are SO many variables in sport, so many that have to line up just right in order for us to Q. It's amazing it comes together as often as it does!


No, I'm not arguing against expectations. We are all training and working towards various sets of outcomes and goals. What I am saying is that expectations do a number on our mental game because they mess with our confidence and faith.


I have faith that my dog will do X when she walks into the ring, and when that doesn't happen, it can shake my faith. Once might be okay, but by the third time, I might be questioning everything and making handling choices that I wouldn't usually make, which does not help the situation (no surprise). We lose our perspective and sometimes abandon what was previously working.


Expectations help test our team's readiness. Can I expect to Q? Why or why not? We can only put ourselves in a position to Q, we don't control the outcome. We can place our attention on our process goals, not count on our dog to be a proper little robot. There are the goals we set, the actions we take in that direction, and the preparation we do. Everything else is not up to us.


There will always be tension between how fast we want something to happen vs. the time it takes. Focusing on our unmet expectations serves no purpose whatsoever. I'm convinced our dogs are here to humble us and be our greatest teachers (even if you didn't ask - LOL) while reminding us that we have much less control than we think (or want).


So the next time your performance falls short of expectations, and you're all up in your feels about that, ask yourself, "Why?" "What did you think would happen?" From there, you'll uncover a trove for you to mine and work on for next time!

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