Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hopes and expectations

I could just as easily title this post "Learning from someone younger", or "Receiving enlightenment from a youthful sage". Without going into the identity of the young person who is the fount from which this blog springs, I am riding on a mere glimpse, today, of how an author can truly benefit from listening.
We talk, we rant, we deliver workshops to those who would listen. We write reams and reams of words. We read the writings of wise ones who went before - in a book world that was vastly different, of course, pre-2009 - but emerge more or less unaltered.
Then a young person says something, in that inimitable enthusiastic, clear, bright way they have ... and realization, if it were a liquid, would have drenched the tablecloth. Refilled the yellow cups, flooded the plates and cutlery, made mush out of napkins and leftover Stroganoff.
There's a difference, I learned, between hopes and expectations. And one must never confuse the two. Hopes are rather like dreams - we can have them with impunity. Hope is never denied, even to those with the most unrealizable of dreams. We can always hope.
Confusing hopes with expectations, however, can be dangerous, defeating, and the result can be just plain depressing. Expectations require some consideration of an outcome, which is always limited by environment, participants, income, location, ability. Hope is eternal and needs no real results. Anyone can hope. We might continue to hope long after the lottery is drawn, the ship goes out, the parcel is lost in the post. But expectations need input, and an understanding of real elements necessary to bring them about.
One can mark up what I mean: it can be easy to visualize the difference by listing hopes and expectations in the same way as one would pros and cons. Do it: draw a vertical line down the middle of your page and list Hopes on one side and Expectations on the other. Do this for each aspect upon which you are imagining some sort of result. It could be a response from a distant person, a batch of seeds to sprout, a tax refund to arrive, or yes ... book sales.
Your hopes are understandable, legitimate, vital, even. One needs to hope. Hope is a basic human attribute. Without it, we lack ... well, we lack hope. If we are denied hope, we rebel.
The hopes on that side of the page are all appropriate and valid. But list the expectations, and suddenly a sense of realism, of down-to-earthedness, of real possibility, descends, and if care is not applied, it can be crushing to come to this realization. What we hope for might not ever happen, because it's improbable, impossible, or both. I can hope that my Stroganoff might turn out as tender and delicious as that of a first-grade chef, but the reality is of course limited by my utensils, skills, ingredients, knowledge, and time. My expectations must be similarly limited.
Learning this makes me take a pair of garden secateurs to my expectations: trim them down to what is in fact, in obvious fact, truly possible. My long list becomes drastically shorter. I am brought nose-to-nose with the reality of what it is I imagine might happen.
How do you distinguish between hopes and expectations? Have you - until now - felt they are much the same thing?


  1. I hope i win the lottery. It's fun. Do I expect to win. Not really, but the dream repeats every week. Maybe next week .... Am I devastated when, once again, I do not win. Not really. I'm not even disappointed. But I still buy one ticket every week. Just one ticket. I never buy more. That is the difference. The game is fun, but expectation can become our downfall unless it is based on reality.

  2. Nope. I've had too many reality checks over the years.

  3. I guess, Yvonne and Norma, that we are all a bit too experienced to miss the difference between pure hope and the expectation of a real outcome. Thank you for stopping by.