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Hopes and dreams, not expectations

As summer awaits us, Matt Shroff looks ahead to his holidays with anticipation, but not expectation. 

As my daughters emerge from GCSE and A level exams, they are both looking forward to the summer. Hardly surprising, especially for the older one, after so many years of education and so many exams.  It's summer, it's holidays, it's things to look forward to, people to see, parties to party and new things and places to explore.  They are lucky and have trips abroad to be excited about, as well as a prom, BBQs and beaches, just to name a few.

In the book 'The art of travel', by Alain De Botton, he discusses that the anticipation of travel is, in many ways, better than the actual travel itself.  There is a delightful section where, and I paraphrase, he discusses that 'the anticipation and consideration of a journey, the preparation and planning, is far better than the drudgery of the actual event'.  Although I disagree in many ways, I understand some of the sentiment - looking forward to things brings its own pleasure and is to be enjoyed in its own right.

I find it helpful to consider both things as almost separate.   I am looking forward to spending a week in Cornwall later this year.  I will think about it, make some plans, imagine what the weather will be like, the food I'll eat, the extra sleep I'll get.  The reality will probably be different, and I will have enjoyed the anticipation, but will leave that behind when I close the front door, and just take the holiday on its face value.  I will try not to have any expectations.

And there we have it.  There is a difference between anticipation and expectation.  Life is not kind to us with regards expectations.  Expecting things can at best lead to relief or mild satisfaction, but at its worst disappointment, heart break and anger.  In my personal life the things that are the hardest to cope with are those things that turned out differently than I had expected. 

It is quite a relief and healthy to let these things go.  If I let my expectations drop away, what am I left with?  Hope, anticipation, excitement.  Freedom and the ability to be surprised.  Boy, I'll take those, thank you very much!

So, I have no expectations of the holidays.  I don't have expectations of my children.  I have hopes and dreams and anticipation of what comes next.  But not expectations.  I'll leave those behind, thanks.

Matthew Shroff
Director of Wellbeing

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