Any hint of blood in the steak I order is sure to smother my joy.
Accordingly, I take time to patiently stress this point whenever my answer is required.
Yet, I cannot count the number of times on which I have been let down by a steak that fails the well-done test.
The eighteenth-century English poet, Alexander Pope, must have had similar experiences of disappointment when he wrote: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”.
The retired cartoonist, Bill Watterson, decided to render the same mind differently: “I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.”
Without doubt, unrealistic expectations tend to assume levels of control that we may not have.
Because they affect how people think, feel and behave, unmet expectations lead to a potpourri of resentment, anger, fear and insecurity.
This week gave the world unforgettable examples of the struggle between expectations and reality.
The American elections and the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 candidate vaccine are some of the trending stories.
The American-German vaccine is reportedly 90% effective at preventing Covid-19 infections.
The results come from 94 out of at least 164 cases that Pfizer and BioNTech need across the study to reliably assess the vaccine’s efficacy.
The announcement was understandably accompanied by an observation that “this is very promising, but expectations and hopes should be kept in check until Pfizer can complete its Phase Three study and the results can be peer-reviewed.”
It is reported that Pfizer can manufacture 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine next year.
However, the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada, through advance purchase agreements will get 80% of the supply.
The Star newspaper in Malaysia has been reflecting on the news.
It reports that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 70% of the people in the world need to be inoculated to end the pandemic.
The newspaper concludes that the issue of resources will militate against the health of the Third World since the genetic material in the vaccine’s make-up needs to be stored at temperatures of -74 °C or below.
“Such requirements pose a particularly daunting challenge for countries in Asia, as well as in places like Africa and Latin America, where intense heat is often compounded by poor infrastructure that will make it difficult to keep the ‘cold chain’ intact during deliveries to rural areas and islands.”
The tussle and evident disconnect between our desires and fact, expectations and reality, has come into sharp focus at this time when uncertainty covers the entire world like the sky.
Novelist Lev Grossman posits: “that was the thing about the world: it wasn’t that things were harder than you thought they were going to be; it was that they were hard in ways that you didn’t expect.”
As we repeatedly construct expectations over shared legitimate concerns, we often fall into the trap of using the expectations to influence reality and create results we prefer.
This snare overlooks the new challenges we face, which include the speed and severity of the change in today’s world.
But there is nothing wrong with expectations.
Writer Guy Finley says “It is appropriate to set goals, and work properly towards their fruition”.
Thus, properly-gauged expectations – not unrealistic ones – can give protection in the face of loss.
Alternatively, they are a bonus where life yields better results than expected.