Expectations are low.

People expect today to be like yesterday.

The 2003 Complete Idiot’s Guide to Psychology says, “when it comes to human beings, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” You’ve heard it from TV experts and forensic psychological profiles on TV shows.

 “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior,
so you have got to create a new history.” ~ Dr Phil

This means people expect you, even pressure you to:

Be what you were!

It’s easier that way. We know what to expect from you. You know what we expect. Nobody gets hurt.

But there are problems with this kind of thinking. Let’s face it, yesterday wasn’t all that good anyway. Because everyone was working off the low expectations from the day before.

Everyone wants a better tomorrow. While lowering expectations may make other people feel more comfortable with you, may make them feel better about themselves, may keep the pressure off them to actually do something, it’s not that good for you. What about your dreams? Your hopes?

“Be what you were” is a terrible idea. We know what we were. We want better. We demand better! That’s what today and tomorrow are for.

There’s another problem with this kind of thinking. It’s not actually true. It can’t be. Otherwise nothing would change.

Everything changes

The problem is the word “best”. What this really means is that we have no idea what people will do but this is our “best” guess.

The best predictor of future behavior? You got to be kidding. To quote Dr. Phil,”How’s that working out for you?” We are terrible at predicting the future.

The truth is that everything changes. And everyone. You don’t look the same as you did a year ago, because you’re not. And neither is the world. This makes predicting the future a maddening and unsuccessful task.

Just this week Orlando, a yellow, tabby cat, beat a group of British financial professionals and students at picking stocks by swatting a toy mouse at a grid of numbers.

That’s how good people are at predicting the future.

Generalizations are specifically wrong

We simply don’t have the ability to calculate all the variables leading to the future. We would have to be gods. (And we’re not, by the way.)

People are unique. A group of people hold possibilities beyond calculation. And there are too many examples of people changing dramatically.

There has never been another you

There has never been another you and there never will be. You are mind-bogglingly complex and unique. Science proves it. Experience confirms it. And you even change a little every day.

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Take a look at a family photo album. Or do like I do and hide them from the kids. Paisley was such a bad idea.

There has never been another today

So many factors and individuals led to creating this moment that it is like no other in history.

History has proved that history never really repeats itself. There may have been dictators before but there has never been another Napoleon. There have been wars but they weren’t the same and no one could predict the outcome in advance.

So, while “Be what you were” might be a pleasant homily to make us feel better, it can never actually happen.

Expectations are wrong

What this means is that no one can tell you what you will be, because they don’t know. No matter how many degrees or TV shows they have.

But since expectations are that you will merely be what you were, exceeding expectations is easy. Because they don’t expect much. And they’re kind of hoping you won’t surprise them.

You, however, know the truth. You are unique. You have the ability to choose. You can learn and grow. So surprise yourself and scare a few people today.

Be What You Weren’t!


Photo: Key the Cat by Enid Yu via Flickr