4/8/21: How to use strong emotions to identify poor expectations

Sent 4/8/2021

Jon and I interviewed Sara Hall on the Fueling the Pursuit podcast and we discussed re-thinking goal-setting on the Go Be More podcast

I also published my March progress report detailing my sales, marketing initiatives, and overall progress, available exclusively to Think Better Newsletter subscribers...aka you! Thank you for joining me on this journey!


This week's Think Better Newsletter looks at how to use our emotions to get better at making predictions, setting expectations, and maybe even...prophesying?

The Idea

One of the mental models I teach my students is the idea of our brains being prediction factories. All day long, whether we like it or not, our brains process data and spit out expectations about the future.

Each expectation is the result of your brain's machinery, maintenance, and materials. The machinery is the knowledge and frameworks you use to interpret the data. The maintenance is how healthy, fatigued or stressed you are. And the materials are the quality of the data coming in.

If you lack any relevant experience in an area, are overstimulated and stressed out, and get all your news from extreme sources...well, your expectations probably aren't going to align to reality. (Sadly, we all now have relatives who fit this description.)

Expectations is a catch-all term, and they can be formal and informal.

When we set expectations formally we call it a prediction, a forecast (in business), a hypothesis (in science), a prognosis (in medicine), or a prophecy (in doomsday cults). If we're humble we just call it making a guess.

Most of the time we set expectations unconsciously. In these cases we call it an expectation, an assumption, a notion, a hunch, or if we like a little dramatic flourish, a sneaking suspicion.

But they are all just calculations for what will happen in the future.

Here's what you need to know: you're making them, you're probably worse at it than you think, and it matters.

You're making them. You can't stop and you wouldn't want to, so you might as well make them better.

You're probably worse at it than you think. How often are you surprised at an outcome? Caught off guard by someone's behavior? Disappointed by your results? Those are signs that you made an expectation and reality didn't align to it. 

It matters. Expectations set the bar for our performances. If you don't expect to win, you won't put yourself in position to win. If you don't expect to close the deal, you won't do what it takes to close it. If you don't believe you have enough talent, you won't do the work necessary to find out.

How we set expectations is critical. Setting better expectations can't guarantee success. But setting poor expectations sets you up for failure.

The System

Fortunately, there's a simple way to get better at setting expectations: track them.

For formal predictions, write them down. If you can articulate it, include the main reason why you predict what you do. Then see if you are right.

For informal expectations, look for strong emotional responses. They are often a sign that your expectations were off. If you're disappointed, your expectations were too high. If you're ecstatic, your expectations were too low. If you're surprised, your expectations were off in some way.

You don't have to do this publicly. There's no need to tweet them all. You don't even need to do it forever. Doing it for just a few days can make you aware of all the areas for improvement.

But one caveat: you have to approach this system with humility. It's about challenging your mental frameworks, not proving that they are right.

Some frameworks are better than others at explaining reality. Some are more productive for getting a specific result. Some situations benefit from a psychological framework, others an economic or physiological one.

The more you have to draw from, the more likely you will be to choose the one that helps you get the results you want.

And if you decide you have room for improvement, that's why I wrote Make the Leap. It outlines a better framework for thinking about training (machinery), interpreting the data coming in (materials), and identifying ways to be well-rounded and healthy (maintenance). It will help you upgrade your prediction factory.

The Question

What percentage of your predictions do you predict will come true?


Go Be More,

Bryan Green
Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast

"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it is about the future."
- Niels Bohr


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