The Importance of Setting Intentions vs. Expectations

I recently went out to a nice dinner with a group of friends. One of the members of our party seemed to be complaining about everything:

“We didn’t get the right table.”

“We’re not close enough to the window, but if we move too close to the window, there will be a glare.”

“The meat is too tough, but I don’t wanna have to send back by my meal.”

You get the picture.

Curious about how people’s minds work, I had to ask myself, “What must be true for this person in order for them to act that way?”

And what occurred to me is that disappointment, which is what this person was experiencing, requires some planning.

Disappointment Requires Planning

Let me explain.

My guess is, this person most likely had a very specific image in her head about how things should’ve been. She had possibly envisioned the exact location in the restaurant where we’d sit, the items on the menu, the presentation of the food, and so on. And she probably concocted this vision before we ever arrived at the front door.

Is this an issue? Not necessarily. I think it can be useful to have a sense of how events will play out before they do, and visualizing what you want in life (before you actually have it) is generally a good thing! But if your expectations are too specific or rigid, you’re most likely setting yourself up for disappointment.

As we all know, life is unpredictable. And if everything has to be a certain way in order for you to get the most out of an experience, are you really going to enjoy anything in life? Sounds to me like a pretty miserable way to live.

Set An Intention For Every Experience

A lot of things in life are largely out of our control, which is why having rigid expectations can often lead to disappointment. Rather than having a crystal clear vision of an upcoming experience, I suggest setting an intention. Why is this more valuable? An intention is generally based on an emotion that you’d like to experience, and does not require a detailed checklist of must-haves to come true. Secondly, unlike outside forces, emotions are fully within our control.

Here are a few examples of intentions that you can set for an event like dinner out with friends:

My intent is to enjoy the company of my friends.

My intent is to have good conversation and make good memories.

My intent is to enjoy the experience no matter what happens.

My intent is to be present and connected with the people around me.

My intent is to be open and curious.

You can set an intention for a specific event, a whole day, or even a long-term project that you’re working on.

My suggestion is to start by setting your intention before you go to any event. Before you leave the house or before you arrive, just take a moment and say to yourself what your intention is. You might come back to it periodically throughout the event as a reminder, but it does not need to be repeated like an affirmation. The point is to not get so caught up in the details, but rather to approach the situation with a positive mindset.

Try it out for the next week, and see how it works for you. If you want, leave a comment telling me about your experience. Did you feel more at ease or less on edge? How about fulfilled? Was it an eye-opening experience for you? By using this simple mental hack, you might just find that you fulfill your intention more often than not.

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