New Year, New Expectations; How You Can Expect a Better Year
By: Jaira Draper
Edmond Family Counseling
With the new year in full swing, some of you may have already set goals and new year resolutions. Individuals frequently perceive the start of a new year as a turning point and a chance to improve their lives. Whether you are aware or not, some of you may already have expectations for the new year. So why are expectations essential to consider when making new goals or new year resolutions? We must first be conscious of our expectations to create plans and goals that will be productive, achievable, and realistic.
Expectations are a sincere belief that something will occur or will be the case in the future; they influence an individual's behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Expectations might be conscious or unconsciously held, favorable or adverse, realistic or irrational. Becoming aware of your expectations in different contexts can be difficult; however, with some awareness practice, one can develop the skills necessary to create change in unproductive or harmful cycles of unconscious behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. The self-fulfilling prophecy is a theory in psychological research that helps explain how positive and negative expectations can influence an individual's actions. This self-fulfilling phenomenon happens when an expectation or prediction comes true, to some degree, due to the individual's anticipation that it will occur. So how exactly does this happen? In psychology, we understand that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all influenced by one another. In the context of the self-fulfilling prophecy, the belief or idea of the expectation unconsciously affects the individual's behavior in a certain way, ultimately fulfilling those expectations.
For example, an individual might set a new year's resolution to go to the gym more and live healthier. In this case, the expectation of goal setting might be influenced by the cultural norm of setting new year resolutions at the beginning of each new year. At the beginning of the year, the individual's thought might be, 'It's a new year and a new opportunity to reach my healthy lifestyle goal.' As a result, their behavior might be going to the gym more, which in turn would influence feelings of accomplishment, hope, and motivation. In most cases, this self-fulfilling prophecy example would be the ideal process by which one could achieve their new year's resolutions. However, if you are familiar at all with new year's resolutions, you are probably aware of the decrease in conversations around them shortly after the new year. A study published in an online journal, Forbes (2019), found that 80% of new year resolutions fail. With that being said, could the societal expectation of not meeting these resolutions impact your ability to meet your own? Absolutely! This failure expectation may be unconscious, but it can still influence your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If someone unconsciously expects or believes that they will not meet their goals after some time, these thoughts will inevitably influence their actions. In this example, the behavior of going to the gym would decrease, ultimately resulting in the individual failing to meet their sought-out goal of living a healthier lifestyle and attending the gym.
In addition to becoming aware of your expectations, reframing those expectations to expectancy is another excellent way to combat negative self-fulling situations. By using the information experts have obtained on expectations, individuals can use this knowledge to replace expectations with expectancy. Expectancy is anticipating or hoping that something will happen or be the case, especially something pleasant. The main difference between expectations and expectancy is the focus on the possible positive outcomes of situations. However, there is a balance; setting goals that are too optimistic or unrealistic can be a recipe for failure. For example, someone who focuses on expectancy when setting a goal to go to the gym, may decide they want to try to go every day, however if currently they only go to the gym once a month, that goal they set may be too unrealistic. It is important to set goals that are realistic, achievable, measurable, and can be done in a timely manner. By being more mindful of expectancy and challenging oneself to expect optimism when making realistic new year resolutions, one can expect a better year.
Jaira Draper, M.A., LPC-C is a staff therapist at Edmond Family Counseling. Edmond Family Counseling is a non-profit organization. We may be reached at 405-341-3554 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed professional counselors. Donations may be made to Edmond Family Counseling, 1251 N. Broadway, Edmond, OK 73034, or online @ www.edmondfamily.org by clicking the YELLOW DONATE button. Follow us on our Facebook Page @ Edmond Family Counseling for additional information regarding mental health awareness.