“The best lesson I was given is that all of life teaches, especially if we have that expectation.”
– Sam Abell, American photographer for National Geographic
“What are you looking for?”
“The red flag,” I replied, peering out the bus window. “If it’s up, we’ve got mail!”
Every time our school bus pulled up to the intersection of the main road and the dirt trail that led to our driveway, I watched for a red flag. Our mailbox sat perched on a fence post where the two roads converged. When you posted letters, you put the flag up to notify the postmistress. If you had mail, the postmistress returned the favour and raised the red flag.
I loved getting mail, and it didn’t matter whether it was a letter from a relative or book club newsletter, I cherished it all and kept it all – much to the chagrin of my mother – in a box under my bed. In the summer, I would ride my bicycle the mile or so to the mailbox and in the winter, strap on my cross-country skis and strike out across the fields to my destination.
Hardly a week passed without me finding something in the mailbox. Mind you, to ensure a steady stream of missives, I kept busy writing letters to distant cousins, scouring the back of comic books for interesting novelties and sending away for every free sample available.
Much of my allowance was spent buying postage stamps and envelopes. Looking back, it was the anticipation – the expectation of something good, something wonderful – that got me excited, and buoyed me on those rare days when I felt sad, lonely or depressed. I expected good things and – when it came to our mailbox – good things arrived.
Today, when I’m feeling frustrated or stymied by what life has brought to my doorstep, I ask a simple question: “What have I been expecting?” I know it’s a good question because life – for better or worse – tends to be a reflection of what we expect. Our expectations affect our behaviour. Think of people who move from one crisis to the next. What are they expecting? I’ve heard people say, “I expected something bad to happen and I wasn’t disappointed.”
If you can move through life with a confident expectation of good things, you’ll find that good things are what you’ll tend to encounter. Also, if you encounter something negative, you’re more likely to draw a lesson from the experience, knowing that the lesson, once learned and integrated, will again lead you to something good, positive and constructive.
The better your self-esteem, the easier this task becomes. It’s hard to expect anything good when you’re feeling negative about yourself, others or the world around you. Now don’t get me wrong; it would be misleading for me to suggest that simply expecting good things will guarantee their arrival. As with my childhood mailbox visits, I had to become an active participant in drawing the good things I expected into my life. I had to send off letters to friends and family, order things from catalogues and create the positive conditions necessary.
Someone told me once that with life, we usually find what we’re looking for – good or bad. In other words, what’s expected tends to be realized. If you get up in the morning expecting a bad day, a bad day is likely what you’ll experience. If, however, you set out in the morning with a confident expectation of good things, you may just experience a remarkable day. Moreover, chances are, your positive expectation will have a positive impact on everyone you encounter.
Brian Tracy, the Canadian-born American motivational speaker and author may have expressed it best when he wrote, “Positive expectations are the mark of the superior personality.”
I want you to try something: for just one day, tomorrow, expect good things to happen. Watch for them at every turn, and when they happen, give thanks. By the time your head hits the pillow tomorrow night, I’ll wager that you’ve enjoyed an exceptional day.