Kate Expectations

If you had asked me last week how I expected to feel today, I would have said excited, liberated, relieved.

Why was I so excited? I had not just great expectations for launching SOS, but what my friend calls, Kate Expectations. I had (notoriously) specific expectations about the plan, how I wanted it to unfold, and how I thought I’d feel. I visualized it and eagerly anticipated the moment the wire would hit.

And that, indeed, has been awesome (thank you).

But right now I feel indecisive, exhausted, stressed.

Huh?

We’re really bad at predicting how we’ll feel in the future. Psychological fact. Humans are very inaccurate affective forecasters.

We think we’ll be way happier than we are for all sorts of things as stereotypically happiness-inducing as winning the lottery.

I was so laser focused on launching SOS, I forecasted my feelings in a vacuum that didn’t account for reality. I saw it through the lens of entrepreneur, not working mom. Irony is thick, yes.

There I was, Wednesday afternoon, having picked up my kids, strapped them in to the carseats in our very dirty minivan, and using that fleeting moment of calm in the parking lot reply to Facebook comments and tweets. I proceeded to squeeze in emails between spatula flips and wiped up messes with one hand while trying to quickly check server issues and email back “thank yous.” And then I savored my precious moments alone into the wee hours, that naturally left me less than liberated the next morning.

Our poor affective forecasting happens for a number of reasons, my favorite and arguably most relevant are:

  • Impact bias - We overestimate the intensity and duration of our emotional reactions. By the way this is also true for negative events. We’re often more resilient than we think.
  • Focusing effect - we put too much importance on a certain aspects and don’t seeing the forest through the trees, everyday routine in my case.
  • Anchoring - we anchor our predictions based on our current state. So if you had asked me at bedtime while wrestling my twins into their cribs like a game of whack-a-mole, I might have been better able to anchor my future state!

Why is this a problem, we make a lot of decisions based on our predictions about how things are going to feel. If we wrongly predict how things will make us feel, e.g. how happy we think we’ll be, we actively work to bring about things that don’t actually make us happy.  This is one of the more critical reasons to get advice-- and to be wary of adjusting expectations, or just not being so specific about them...