I recently got back from a trip to Zion National Park in Utah. It was a great time with some great views to remember. I challenged myself with some tough, but rewarding hikes. But I was reflecting on two different set of expectations I had. How I anticipated them. How I acted on them. And how they ended up. I believe these expectations are a metaphor for some of our expectations in job and career search.
The first challenge was Angel’s Landing. The Zion web site characterizes it this way: “Long drop-offs. Not for young children or anyone fearful of heights. Last section is a route along a steep, narrow ridge to the summit.
For someone like me, who has a fear of heights, this was a really scary hike. I was very nervous beforehand, wondering if I could complete the hike. In fact, I was prepared to stop before the last half mile, which was the really scary part (I could justify that I already did 2 tough miles). In the last half mile, I needed to be able to climb along a cliff edge, sometimes only six feet wide. Some of the climbing required using a chain lodged in the rock to help you climb up.
Once we got to the last half mile, I decide to go for it. We went early enough in the morning that it was not very crowded, so I could take my time. I have to admit, I spent most of that last part staring at the two feet in front of me as I climbed (inched?) up. I did not want to look up to see the next challenge. I definitely did not want to look left or right to see the drop off from the rocks. Looking back? Forget it!
I made it. The view was amazing. But the satisfaction of overcoming a fear was even more special. Of course, we still had to go back down the way we came. In my mind, I anticipated this being harder (more anticipation!). The descent would be more crowded, so I would have to negotiate around people. There was no avoiding looking down, that was the direction we were headed!
Reality was the climb down was way easier than expected. I had the confidence that I had tracked up the mountain against all odds. I had that accomplishment in my back pocket.
Which gets me to lesson #1. Ever felt like what I just described on a work or personal task? “Whoa, I don’t know if I can do this”. “Tell me again why I would want to do this to myself”? “I don’t think I should apply for that job, I just won’t get it”. I am sure we all have. Taking the first step is the key. Once you get going, you have a little momentum. You might still embarrass yourself. If anyone looked closely at me, they would have seen my terror. To be honest, in that climb who is paying any attention to me? If they are on this climb, they are either as scared as me or they are enjoying the view along the way. That’s what happens to most of the things we do. We imagine others’ reactions, when they in fact are so wrapped in themselves we are invisible to them.
The second hike was The Narrows. I was REALLY looking forward to this hike. It is one of the most unique hikes I know of. You hike, in the water, against the current of a river through a very narrow canyon. There are some times where the water is above your knees. By the way, the water is 52 degrees. As one person characterized the hike, “it is like walking on slippery bowling balls”. The river has deposited tons of rocks, most of which have algae growing on them, making them slippery. Okay, so maybe that does not sound “exciting” to you. But it was to me.
On this hike, I needed to manage expectations in a different way. I was so excited, to do this hike, how could it meet my expectations? Was I already too anticipatory to truly enjoy it?
So that is lesson #2. When you are excited for something, anticipating a great event, live the moment. Remember why you are there. Take in each sight, sound, feeling as it is happening. Don’t jump forward to what “might be”. It is said that sometimes the anticipation is greater than the event. You don’t need to curb your enthusiasm. But don’t be so wrapped up in trying to anticipate “what’s next” that you missed “what is happening”!
I think that happens to job seekers. We get so wrapped up in preparing for the interview for “the best job”. We get excited when we perceive the interview is going well. We think about the next question, our next response, our next great story. And perhaps we miss an opportunity to really clarify a point. Or we miss the fact that the interviewer was being nice, but did not fully appreciate our story. By letting our excitement for the larger event (the interview) overtake our awareness of the moment (the interviewer’s reaction) we miss an opportunity.
You could probably come up with your own examples of highly-anticipated situations that did or did not meet expectations. Were you present in the moment? Did you simply “do it”?