I don’t think we can control our expectations… What we should control is our reaction when those expectations are not met.
Shada AlDahash

Recently, I was invited to speak at an event in another city by an organization that does some really cool work. The kind of work they do makes a positive difference for all of us. It was only a 30-minute presentation, but because of the location, it was pretty much an all-day commitment.

This was the first workshop of its kind that this organization sponsored. They took a risk by trying something new.

There were 50 people who registered for the event and when I arrived, the seating was expanded to accommodate at least 80 participants. This was going to be GREAT!  Guess how many participants showed up? Alas, only 3 of the 50 registered were in attendance.

How would you have reacted? Would you have been disappointed or derailed by this gap between what you expected and what actually happened?

I will admit to a little disappointment, but it didn’t linger for more than a minute. My value of hope allowed me to see possibilities. Regardless of my circumstances, I have choices. I can choose to believe in myself and in others. I can choose to demonstrate optimism by looking forward and moving ahead.

I found myself excited to get to know the three participants and to have a conversation where we could learn from each other. At the start of 2017, I set an intention to build trust. Connecting with that intention enabled me to move forward with full commitment and trust that I would learn much in the journey. I could choose to enjoy the ride and look for learning….and I did!

But it hasn’t always been that way. Often, in the past, when my expectations weren’t met or the unexpected occurred, my emotions, frustrations and disappointments drove me to an unproductive place. I wasn’t quick to manage myself and that messiness spilled over to others – not the positive impact I was looking for!

Thankfully, with the support of others and increased self-awareness, there is a transformation occurring in me, which was evidenced in my response to the small group of three that showed up for the presentation.

Here are a few tips that may be helpful to maximize your responses and minimize your reactions:

  • Cultivate an open mindset – be curious, declare a judgement free zone, be intentional about looking for learning. I could have judged that having only 3 participants when I expected close to 50 made the trip a waste of time, but my choice to believe that having an interaction with even 1 person could have a positive ripple effect on either one or both of us.
  • Choose to shift your thinking – ask yourself, “What else could this mean? How else could I look at this? What are some positives that could result?” Although the nearly empty room didn’t look very promising, I had the chance to consider how I could be open to this unknown experience and look for learning and lessons. I challenge you to “Overcome a challenge by changing how you think about it.”
  • Get into the habit of asking for feedback – tell others what you are working on and invite them to give you feedback, both affirming and developmental. Because I was aware that I could have been hijacked by the unexpected, I asked for feedback after the presentation to see how I showed up at this recent event. This feedback provides data for me and increases my awareness; I can use this to develop my intention for how I will choose to respond to the unexpected in my next opportunity.

How do you react or respond when your expectations aren’t met or the unexpected occurs?



Carla Ruiz

Carla Ruiz

Carla’s mission is to fuel growth and development by affirming strengths, challenging beliefs, and igniting potential through Values Based Leadership. She presents, facilitates, and coaches in a variety of leadership programs and with companies intentional about strengthening their culture. In her role as a Leadership Development Coach, she is passionate about increasing emotional intelligence, which she believes is the cornerstone of effective leadership.

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