Bridging the Gap between Your Expectations and Your Reality

As a computer programmer, I’m inspired to apply software development, engineering, and problem-solving ideas in my life. Today’s post will be about one of those ideas, test driven development.

In the traditional software development process, the implementation precedes the tests. This is the intuitive way of programming because most programmers tend to write their functional code before starting with the tests.

In the test driven development (TDD) process, the traditional development process is reversed. In TDD, we start with tests first and then write the code that satisfies those tests.

What Does All of That Have to Do with Your Life?

Let me explain. Two values are compared in the unit tests in TDD, the expected and the actual value. That has a lot to do with our psyche. When our expectations and our reality don’t match each other, we are either positively surprised, or we feel psychological pain.

I don’t advocate living a life without any psychological pain. I don’t think it’s even possible. And some psychological pain could be beneficial to get motivated and to make progress in our lives.

I do recommend managing our expectations consciously so that we make progress toward worthy goals.

Step 1. Determine Your Expectations

The first step of applying TDD to your life is to determine your expectations. You might object this step. You might say that you already know your expectations. That’s not always the case.

We all have conscious expectations. We also have a lot of unconscious expectations, in other words assumptions. When our unconscious expectations are violated, we get surprised, even shocked.

When you’re driving a car, you assume to arrive at your destination safely. You might be shocked when someone rear-ends you.

In the first step, we need to become aware of our assumptions, which is a process that takes a lifetime. But the more progress we make, the better.

In this step, we also examine our conscious expectations. Maybe, we let go of some expectations, and we add some expectations.

Step 2. Determine Your Reality

In step 2, make a reality check for each expectation from the first step. To which extent does your current reality satisfy your expectations?

Step 3. Determine the Gaps between Your Expectations and Reality

In some cases, your reality might satisfy your expectations. That’s great. We need to acknowledge those cases and be grateful for them.

To maintain a positive outlook on life, I recommend acknowledging five satisfied expectations for every unsatisfied expectation. This 5-to-1 ratio is important to keep a positive attitude in various areas of our lives, including our relationships and our self-esteem.

Once you acknowledge your satisfied expectations, it’s time to determine the gaps between your expectations and reality.

For example, one of my expectations is to be energetic throughout the day. Nowadays, my reality doesn’t satisfy this expectation. I feel sluggish early in the day, and my energy levels increase in the evening.

Step 4. What’s the Reason for the Gap between Your Expectation and Reality?

Now, take one of the gaps from the step 3, ask why there’s a gap between your expectation and reality. When you ask that question, you might come up with multiple reasons. For each reason, you can go several levels deeper by asking the same question repeatedly. This is also called the 5 Why’s method.

For example, I’m sluggish early in the morning, because I don’t sleep well. Why do I not sleep well? Because I drink too much coffee throughout the day. Why do I drink too much coffee throughout the day? Because I feel sluggish throughout the day, especially early in the morning.

Step 5. How Can You Bridge the Gap between Your Expectations and Reality?

Now that you have found the root causes of the gap between your expectation and reality, it’s time to close that gap. What can you do to bridge that gap?

In my case, the root cause seems to be me drinking too much coffee. I will replace coffee with green tea for 30 days and see how that will affect my energy levels throughout the day. If this doesn’t work, I might need to repeat the steps 4 and 5, but I have a strong feeling that it will work.

Summary

We all have conscious and unconscious expectations. When our reality doesn’t match our expectations, we either feel positive surprise or psychological pain.

We can manage our expectations consciously to reduce our stress levels while making progress toward worthy goals. We can do that in five steps.

  1. Determine our expectations.
  2. Determine our reality.
  3. Determine the gaps between our expectations and reality.
  4. Find the reasons for the gaps between our expectations and reality.
  5. Find ways of bridging the gaps between our expectations and reality.
Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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