The Fear of Expectation

Curium | 30 Oct 2015 | News | General

Last week I spoke at a conference on the subject of personal success. Since ‘the talk’ I have been sent a host of emails from people keen to share their stories.  In the space of a single week, these people are closer to achieving their ‘life goal’ than they have ever been.  Things are happening and their belief is increasing.


5 years ago I shared the same strategy with a friend who became CIO of a major retailer within 12 months, after years of trying.

Another friend purchased an acre of land with pigs and chickens after we spoke about his life-long dream to live in the country.

And this morning on the train I met a young chap working for the train company. He’s looking for a new job. ‘Anything really, just a proper job that pays more than 6.40 an hour’ was his answer when I questioned his next vocation.


So I asked him what he is passionate about.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“What are you genuinely passionate about?” I said.

A longish pause.

“Erm. Flowers.”


Brilliant. So flowers are his passion. In fact he worked in a florist a few years ago and at that time he even spotted the perfect location to set up shop.


After a few more questions as to why he hadn’t already followed his dreams I heard the same pattern of rational responses that I got from those at the conference last week. It will cost too much. I don’t have enough experience. It doesn’t happen for people like me. OK so he didn’t say that last bit out loud…but that was the message that I heard.


This is the fear of expectation


I asked him if he would value talking about it to see if we could make a break-through (evoking images of a Jerry McGuire moment). And yes he looked as sceptical as the room full of corporate high flyers last week and no he didn’t yell “show me the money!”.


Here’s how our conversation went:


“Clearly you have an expectation that this dream is not a reality waiting to happen.  Let’s flip it. Now that you expect this reality to happen, what will you do in the next 7 days to contribute to it. And the task can be no longer than 10 minutes.”


Another pause, though less confused this time.


“OK so I can’t buy a flower shop in 10 minutes but I reckon I need 40 grand”

“Too big a task for next week” I said, quite impressed with his immediate ambition but equally concerned about the thoughts going through his head to raise it.

“A bank won’t lend me that much without experience” he continued.


This is the fear of expectation again.


“Get back to the question, what 10 minute task can you do that will contribute to your goal”

“Ask a bank for some money”.

“Again, possibly a step too far at this stage” I said.

“OK” he said, “go and see someone at the bank and ask them to explain the process for raising money”

“Now we are getting there. You mean find out about writing a business plan?” I asked.

“Do they teach you that in banks? Well yes, if that’s what they can do. But is that 10 minutes?”

“Then make it smaller” I said.

“Book an appointment to see someone in the bank about writing a business plan and raising money. That should be 10 minutes tops to book a meeting.”


“OK” I said “We have the task. Now get out your diary (he gets his diary on his phone). When are you going to do this task?”


He looks for a minute or two. “Today. I’ve just finished my night shift (it’s now 6:15 in the morning). I can do it at 9.00 when the bank opens.”


He proceeds to put it in his diary.


“One final ask I have of you. On Sunday, take out your diary and do the same thing. Select a simple task, maybe a couple. Put them in your diary. At the end of the week, look back at the task and reflect on whether you did it. If you did, great. If not then ask why. Is the goal not compelling enough? Does my diary fill up with everybody else’s priorities before my priorities even get a look in?”

“OK” he said.


Now did he do this 10 minute task at 9.00 today? I don’t yet know.


Here is what I do know:


  • The dream of owning a florist was beyond the expectation of this 23 year old who I also learned grew up in a care home and currently works 7 days a week on minimum wage.
  • As a result he hadn’t taken any meaningful steps toward achieving it in the last 3 years since enjoying working in a florist.


This is the fear of expectation.


  • What is within his expectation is taking 10 minutes out of his day to book an appointment.
  • The likelihood of this task being completed is extremely high.
  • Most important of all is that he is now on his way and it may lead to great things for him.


This is the power of expectation.


As he left the train he said to me “maybe see you next week on the same train”. He then, I kid you not, looked at the open diary on his phone and looked at me and said “or maybe not” and with a faint smile got off at the next stop.


At this point I was smiling too.


  1. Our expectation is our biggest friend and our worst enemy.
  2. We can only consistently perform within our own expectation before we self-sabotage.
  3. Not everyone has the mind-power to immediately turn their expectation all the way up.
  4. Some of us have to earn it through taking the small steps week in week out.


I’ve put a reminder in my diary to go to the shopping mall in a few months’ time and see if I’ll be able to buy flowers from a familiar face. I expect I will.

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