An Award Winning Psychologist Explains Exactly Why You Aren’t Getting What You Want in Life + How To Fix it
Dr. Jennice Vilhauer opens her Ted Talk by asking the audience, 'Raise your hand if you would like to win the lottery.'
All hands go up and then she asks, 'Keep your hand raised, if in the past month, you actually bought a lottery ticket.'
The hands go down.
She smiles and continues, 'You don’t need a psychologist to tell you why you didn’t buy those tickets you didn’t expect to win. Given the odds of winning the lottery, that might seem like a reasonable conclusion. But what’s important to learn here is that:
'You act based on what you expect NOT what you want.'
Here's an interesting story Dr. Vilhauer shares in her Ted Talk to further validate her point.
I was working with a client recently—I'll call her Amy. She was a gorgeous and successful woman, but she was also sort of shy, very self-deprecating—and she had a history of picking the wrong men.
Amy had recently gotten out of a bad marriage, worked on herself, and was ready to meet someone new, so she decided to try online dating. But she was having one bad date after the next. The men didn’t look like their pictures, they would forget their wallets, some of them didn’t show up at all…
One day, Amy came in and immediately burst into tears. “I had the most awful date of my life.”
How bad was he?
"He was amazing," she said, "absolutely everything I’ve been looking for."
But then she said, "I completely blew it, I was so certain that this was going to be another bad date and a waste of my time that I told him to meet me for coffee after my yoga class. I didn’t have time to shower so I showed up in my gym clothes, hot and sweaty, no make-up…and there he was…Mr. Immaculately Groomed, Tall, and Handsome, with a perfect smile.
"I was so mortified and self-conscious, I couldn’t even make eye contact. I just sat there staring at the floor and laughing nervously, until I told him I had to put more money in the parking meter—and then left—without even saying good-bye."
Amy acted on what she expected—another bad date—not what she wanted, which was to meet a great guy.
I started reflecting on my own frustrations and struggles and wondered if this was the reason why I felt stuck in many areas of my life.
And as I spent more time thinking about it, it became clear to me that this was INDEED the reason why I was struggling - low on self-confidence and high on social-anxiety, my never-ending battles with weight loss, feeling unfulfilled in my career that wasn't going anywhere and being depressed living in a place known for long, dreary winters.
While I wanted things to change, I hardly took any steps to overcome my problems (and even if I did, they were half-assed and inconsistent) because my expectations were different from what I wanted.
Dr. Vilhauer explains, "An expectation is a belief about whether or not you're going to get what you want."
And here is the formula Dr. Vilhauer shares on why despite wanting so many things in life like attracting the right partner, getting that dream job or losing weight - we remain stuck in our old, unhealthy patterns unable to transform our lives for the better.
Expectation + Action = Creation of life experiences.
And while I thought I was acting based on what I wanted, my actions were based on my expectations.
For example, because all my past endeavors to lose weight were total failures, I became tired of failing and gradually lost hope of ever losing weight. As a result I never exercised or ate healthy on a consistent basis because my expectation was that I would never be successful in losing weight.
The same was the case with my other struggles - despite being stuck in a job I didn't really like, I didn't look for other job opportunities or seriously consider moving to a warmer place to overcome the winter blues because my expectation was no matter what I do, my life will NEVER change and I will always be stuck - perpetually shackled to my struggles.
In short, I was like Amy except my struggles were pervasive across many areas of my life.
I have made a conscious effort to be more mindful of my inner-talk and the motivations behind my behaviors- why I am doing what I am doing.
This profound insight has inspired me to take small but consistent actions towards my goals. While I still have a LONG way to go to achieve my goals, I am encouraged by the slow but steady progress I have made towards my health and happiness.
Here's Dr. Vilhauer's Ted Talk and feel free to check out her book 'Think Forward To Thrive' which is one of the best books that I have recently read in personal growth and transformation.