Yesterday I spent a long but enjoyable day exploring some out of the way places in the Pacific Northwest with my eldest nephew. This boy – this young man, really – is growing up so fast. I’m humbled that he still wants to spend time with me, amused at all the ways that he’s still that sweet little boy that I held in my arms all those years ago, and worried for him the way that anyone worries about a young person they love.
As we drove through a variety of landscapes, we talked about a lot of things: his hopes for the future, his worries about today, what he likes and doesn’t like.
He, like many people, has a clear vision for what he wants his future to be. Whether that future is in the next hour or the next decade, he has expectations. I always envy that quality in a person. I’m one who can be rather lazy in my expectations, keeping them low and hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
Together, we make an odd pair for these photography adventures of ours. He knows the exact shot he wants to get at a particular location. I’m in charge of getting us there and tend to arrive, having little idea of what we’re even there for. Alternatively, I’ll pick out places with a vague “I’m not sure what it is but it looked interesting on the map.”
When you know what you want to have happen, you’re focused and driven to your goal. That’s a positive thing. But it can create tunnel vision, and disappointment if the thing you were hoping for disappoints or is unavailable.
I see this in business and in the lives of my friends. Too many expectations invariably lead to disappointment. They create too small a picture of what success can look like. As I’ve drily said to my nephew on more than one occasion, “you don’t want too many rules about how to be happy.”
I’m more easy-going in my travel adventures, but I too suffer from a plethora of expectations. I have my own rules on how to be happy that are not always easy to meet. Where I’m a flexible road-tripper, I’m not flexible in other ways.
These were the things I saw. I had no expectations about what the day would bring except to hang out with my nephew and play with our cameras. We were challenged by closed roads, unmarked trails and clouds-that-weren’t-in-the-forecast, but we were also dazzled by spectacular views, reminders of the dangers of mountain roads, and a great deal of glorious mid-summer weather. Not all these photos turned out how I would have liked, but they are reminders of all the moments that were far better than I could have anticipated.
Perhaps all of us would do well to pause and take stock in our moments of disappointment. There might be more to see than you realized, if you just stop to look.