It Doesn’t Matter What Al Pacino Expects of You

You’re standing in front of a closed door.

You have absolutely no idea what, or who, is on the other side.  Anything could be waiting for you.

You take a breath and take hold of the door handle.

You turn it, push, and step through, only to find….

What? What do you find?

Maybe it’s a room full of uniformed police staring you down, guns drawn, angrily yelling at you to freeze. Perhaps it’s the person you love most in the world, arms outstretched to welcome you. Or maybe it’s Al Pacino, enigmatically sipping at a bourbon, a spirited “Who ha” just about to erupt.

Chances are, when you open the door and step through your behaviour will change to suit what’s on the other side. If it’s the police you’ll throw up your hands or hit the deck; you’ll be more subservient or passive and you’ll behave in a manner that’s respectful of people in authority. Or maybe you’ll go the other way, be offended by their offensive stance and challenge them to explain themselves.

If it’s the person you love most in the world you’ll happily accept the hug they’ve offered you, and relax into their familiar, loving company while breathing a sigh of relief that there wasn’t anything nasty behind that closed door.

And if it’s Al Pacino, you might initially be a little star-struck, tuning your behaviour to be respectful but also trying hard to be “normal” and find the right thing to say without coming across as a fawning idiot.

Your behaviour shifts when you discover what and who is behind the door

That shift is often based on 2 things:

  1. What you expect will happen next.
  2. What you think is expected of you.

Your brain will run through what it knows and select a pattern of thinking that matches those 2 considerations, giving you a ready made map to navigate the set of circumstances you’re suddenly plunged into.

That’s your brains job; to ease your path through the environment.

It’s often useful and appropriate to adapt your behaviour to match the situation you’re in; after all, you wouldn’t want to run up to the Dalai Lama and slap him on the arse or strip down to your undies and do your special Beyonce dance in front of your mother.  But sometimes it’s as helpful as a tit on a fish.

You end up making choices based on what you think is expected of you, instantly limiting your options and making sure you jump through hoops and second guess yourself.

Bottom line?  It doesn’t matter what Al Pacino expects of you.

Great expectations give you great limitations

Forget what’s expected of you (particularly what you think is expected of you) and go through the door with a sense of YOU.

  • You don’t need to fill in any blanks of thinking or behaviour; you can trust yourself to make it up as you go along.
  • You don’t need to second guess what you should do or how you should behave; second-guessing precludes being at your best.
  • You don’t need to be on the back-foot before you’ve even turned that door handle; nothing’s going to kill you and you can deal with whatever happens.
  • You already have what you need to deal with what’s on the other side of the door.

Do you find yourself playing different roles or jumping through hoops in different circumstances? What gets in the way of you being YOU?

  • I certainly live in a world of expectations and would so enjoy being “just me” again. How to let go of these expectations is difficult. I find when I do, everything comes crashing down. If you are willing to hit rock bottom on this one or can afford the luxury of doing so, you could build yourself back up as the real you. So for me, it’s a financial thing and a complete rebirth. That’s a scary thing yet so is the thought of living the rest of my life with the current expectations in place. Great article. You really nailed this one!

    • Not sure you need to hit rock-bottom to make this work – in a way, that’s an expectation too. If I let go of this, I’ll fall.

      What is it that takes the place of an old expectation or an old assumption? Something better. Something that works for you now, rather than you then.

      So, what’s a better thought you can have that might feel easier?

  • Al Pacino might be scared shitless over what he thinks YOUR expectations are of him. Ya never know…

  • WOW this is a great one, Steve. I read this and feel as though I live most of the moments of most of my days like this. What DOES get in the way of us being us? Of me being me? How do we learn to forget what we think might be expected of us? Where do we start?

    For me, I feel like it all started in high school, when I had almost no friends and felt desperate to fit in and would try anything and wear anything and say anything in a desperate attempt to be liked by anyone (which failed more than miserably).

    Perhaps this is why I feel so happy and free when I’m traveling in other parts of the world. I generally have no idea what might happen next out there, nor how to react to whatever it is.

    • It can certainly be a long road Cara, and I love that insight about how free you feel when you’re travelling. Sounds like it’s those roles, expectations and assumptions in your everyday environment that’s helping your stuckness to stay stuck.

      What if you could bring some of that same “no idea what might happen next, nor how to react to whatever it is” to where you are right now?

  • Rejection. Fear. Isolation. Not knowing other choices exist… all of these prevent me being my best.
    I am beyond tired of “feeding” these negatives!

    • I’m simultaneously saddened and encouraged by the volume of people who say that they’re “beyond tired” of feeding those things. Saddened because I know there’s a richer, more meaningful experience to be had, and encouraged because I know there’s a richer, more meaningful experience to be had.

      What if you didn’t need to feed those things any more?

  • Hi Steve,

    This is so true. We learn things as we go through life and these become habitual responses. We actually forget who we are underneath the ‘programming’ and forget that we can choose how to respond to each situation as it happens. Second guessing switches off our intuition.

    I enjoyed the post.

    • Right on the money. We get layer upon layer of thinking that ends up suffocating what we know to be true – the freedom that comes from getting out from under all that stuff is extraordinary indeed. Thanks Keith.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}