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Blinded by Expectations

From the moment that we’re born, we learn to expect certain outcomes as a result of our actions. When we cry, Mom or Dad comes to our aid to figure out the problem. The expectation is that a cause (crying) will elicit an effect (the arrival of a caregiver). This cause-and-effect system persists in our lives, and mostly for good reason. It’s how we build our lives for normalcy, to make sense of the world. But what happens when the reality of the situation doesn’t meet with our expectations? It can be blinding, even debilitating, and make us question everything we’ve known until then.

When we are blinded by expectations, the term researchers use is inattentional blindness (IB), and numerous studies have been completed on the phenomenon. Probably the most known study regards a person in a gorilla suit walking across a TV screen while participants were asked to count how many times a ball bounced. The vast majority of participants did not notice the gorilla*. They were too busy counting that they didn’t expect the unexpected, so they weren’t looking for it.
* Read the Original Paper

How many times does this happen in your life or business? You are plugging away while holding certain expectations in your head, and you don’t see what’s right there in front of you. You’re not alone; as the research shows, most of us suffer from IB; we’re just not looking at everything.

One way to make a difference is to focus and center yourself. Pull back and notice everything around you. Heighten your senses. It’s human nature to be focused on something so specifically that we fail to see what’s all around us. Stop and smell the flowers from time to time. Look out of the corner of your eye and see what’s there. You might be surprised at how much you’re missing. Even on a morning drive to the office, a normally rote event, you probably haven’t seen 50% of what passes you. Open your eyes on your next drive.

Another great tool to see what you’re missing in your life or business is to ask for help. Often, we can’t see alternatives and other paths because we’re too busy getting things done. But when we sit down with a business coach, colleague, or friend, we’re made privy to what we’ve been missing. It’s a classic case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Another person offers a fresh perspective because he or she isn’t looking at things in the same way you are. Usually, when that feedback is received, it’s a “Duh!” moment because it was right there in front of you the whole time.

If you’re having challenges seeing all that’s available to you, I encourage you to schedule an appointment with me. Through coaching, we can devise a system to help you be more aware and not be blinded by expectations that occur in your life and work. The difference may just astound you once you find out what you’ve been missing.