How to Change the Engine of Expectations

How Hypnosis Makes You a Better Singer

Resource-Based Language Also Works

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Most of us believe that our present behavior is the best indicator of our future when the exact opposite is actually the case. Our future (the expectations we hold) predicts the present. After all, we are prediction machines.

When you expect to do well at something, you behave much differently than when you anticipate doing poorly. When you expect a poor outcome, you are more likely to exhibit behavior consistent with a poor result. If someone asked you to sing the national anthem at an event, and you have a self-image as a poor singer, expectations of doing poorly, and embarrassing yourself, will interfere with your performance. Your anticipation of a poor performance triggers a physiological response. Your autonomic nervous system sends adrenaline surging through your body giving you the sensation of butterflies in your stomach. You interpret this as anxiety, which then escalates, sabotaging your performance by interfering with proper breathing, correct posture, and voice projection. You warm up with a note. It sounds off-key and hesitant which confirms your fear and also raises your anxiety one more notch. Your (anticipated) future predicts your present.

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Hypnotists at stage shows know this. All they have to do is change your expectations and convince you with a suggestion that you are a popular singer and the audience eagerly anticipates your rendition of the anthem.

After that suggestion, you anticipate doing well, you breathe deeply, stand erect, and project your voice effectively, thereby enhancing your performance. You warm up with a note. It sounds off-key but you brush it off as a necessary exercise to find your tone. You interpret your physiological arousal as excitement. In essence, your expectations enlist corresponding responses and perceptions.

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Our expectations reflexively elicit corresponding behaviors and produce self-fulfilling prophecies. Expecting to sing poorly not only increases the likelihood of a poor performance; it also elicits a hypervigilance for expected errors, an inclination to interpret arousal as anxiety, followed by the likelihood of a poor self-evaluation. In this sense, your expectations activate your present behavior — your (anticipated) future predicts your present perception. Our expectations unconsciously direct our senses to search for confirming evidence that we were indeed correct in our anticipation. Thinking of something is literally the start of doing it.

By the way, if you can’t find a hypnotist to change your expectations, practice and rehearsal also work. But herein lies a conundrum. Who is most likely to practice; someone who expects to do poorly or someone who expects to improve?

We can change expectations without using hypnosis. Teachers, parents, coaches, supervisors, and psychologists do it all the time with resource-based language. The simple, “You can do it” supportive comment often goes unheeded for someone with a low expectation, whiles it’s unnecessary for somebody with a positive expectation. Resource-based language names a path that’s already present.

“Your ability to hold that note shows a sign of a budding singer.” This person is now prone to notice an ability to hold a note and feel encouraged. A comment like this nudges expectations by showing how, by naming a resource.

“Your willingness to help others shows the signs of a strong leader.” We feel pleased when someone notices a resource. Neurologically, resource-based language triggers a bump of dopamine, our motivator neurotransmitter. This person is now motivated to help others again. After all, it’s a sign of strong leadership.

A little success is a mighty seed. “Your ability to nurture seeds with resource-based language helps others flourish.”

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