There's a fundamental difference between living with expectation and living with intention. I've explored the notion of expectation before, and what happens when it falls out of alignment with reality; this week, I’d like to differentiate between expectation and intention, and suggest that living with intention is a healthier and more success-oriented mindset.
The real difference between intention and expectation are the focus points. Both can assume a goal in mind, and a practice or road set out before you to achieve that goal. Intention focuses on the journey — the ‘how’ — whereas expectation focuses on the result — the ‘what’. At first blush, this may seem to be a semantic differentiation, but when you look at things a little deeper, and understand how drastic of a difference that is, you begin to see why intention is healthier than expectation.
Let me illustrate through an example. Let’s say that you’re going to go out shopping, and have a few places to go through the city. Now, if you’re like me, you’ll plan out a route that appears the most logical and time-saving possible (admission: this is one of the few OCPD things I still do on a regular basis). Makes sense, yes? Well, let’s take a look at this example through the lens of expectation, and then intention.
First, we’ll begin with expectation. With this mindset, we’re focused on our end goal of getting our shopping done, and doing so as efficiently as possible. We’ve planned our route, and everything should go to plan. I mean, it’s all perfect if Google Maps tells us it looks good, right? This mindset will work for us if everything does, in fact, go to plan. As soon as anything — traffic, construction, detours, slow shoppers — gets in our way, however, frustration sets in. We are so focused on how our goal should come about that any kink in how we get there throws us off. The language of “should”, “must”, and “have to” all rear their ugly heads in a mindset of expectation, because we’re so rigidly adamant about completing our goal in exactly the way we set out to. It doesn't matter if we still accomplish our goal in the end — if it didn't happen the way we envisioned it, we become frustrated. This rigidity leads to all kinds of negativity, and can really steer us down an ugly path.
Now, let’s consider a mindset of intention. We still plan on getting our shopping done efficiently, but we focus on getting to our goal, rather than placing all kinds of limitations on what it looks like to achieve it. Detours offer a look at a different part of the city we may not spend much time in, and slow traffic lets us groove a little longer to the kickin’ tunes we’ve got going on. Living with intention is just as much about the journey as it is the destination. The same goal is in mind, but we retain the flexibility to adapt because we do not maintain a rigid structure of how we “should” or “must” achieve it.
Intention is so powerful because it does not focus merely on the end, but the entire path to our goal. It brings us into the present moment, allowing us to appreciate every facet of our journey. Whereas expectation creates a kind of pass/fail situation that greatly limits us and our experiences, intention allows us to truly be a part of the journey we’re on, and creates moments of learning and growth instead of frustration. It was Shakespeare who once said, “Expectation is the root of all evil”, and who am I to argue with the one of the most famous bards in history?