Vision Loss: Expectations and Optimism

Last updated: September 2020

I had a two-hour lull in the work action today so the girls and I got a late-morning walk. The scenery is different depending upon the time of day. Today we saw three girls a-walking, two deer a-running and an old gent just joggin’ by. It was a nice walk, but those things are not what I want to talk about.

More than a walk

If you knew me, you would know I am a bit of a nature nut. I am not a big fan of urban sprawl. The fact that I married the son of a developer-only proves that God has a sense of humor... but that is not what I want to talk about either.

Expecting the worst

To segue off of all that, on our walk, we pass an estate. There is a large lawn near the gate. The other day I noticed they were putting in a pipe and breaking down the bank so that equipment could go from the road into the lawn. My immediate thought was they were preparing to turn that section of the lawn into building lots.

Poop, (family website; ya know) There goes the neighborhood! Where will “my” deer herd go if they put houses here? I jumped immediately to - what to me and “my” deer - was the worst possible conclusion.

Not so bad after all

That was a few days ago. Fast forward to today’s walk when I noticed something different about the lawn. The grass was turning brown. I noticed that last year when they turned the “driving range” the last owner had into a cornfield. Apparently, the first step in turning a driving range or a lawn into agricultural land is to kill the grass. Hmmmmm... perhaps I had jumped the gun and cursed these people for nothing.

Why we expect the worst?

Then I started to wonder why I always start out by thinking the worst is going to happen. I have had clients who say if they expect the worst they can never be disappointed. Any step up from the worst then becomes a win. I am not sure that is my reasoning, though.

Evolution, expectation, and survival

I know we remember the bad and dangerous things that happen to us because remembering has survival value. As hunter and gatherers, it was more important to remember where Charlie was eaten by the saber tooth tiger than it was to remember where those tasty berries were last year.

One is immediate survival while the second is long-term. Maybe remembering how bad things have happened and wanting to be prepared has something to do with it?

Vision loss expectations

One time I was really expecting the worst was when I “lost” my second eye and was declared legally blind. For a while there, I was pretty much sure it was the beginning of the end. How about you?

Fighting vision loss expectations with optimism

Fortunately for me, I did not entertain the thought that life would be all downhill for very long. I tend to be an incurable optimist. I put on my big girl panties and started putting one foot in front of the other.

I figured resigning myself to misery, as well as “blindness” was not the way to go. No matter how far or hard I would eventually fall from my expectations into reality, I was going to expect and strive for the best I could get. How about you?

The risk of low expectations

And that “kinder and gentler” negative expectations business? It is not true.

In their research, Jonathan Brown and Margaret Marshall found that low expectations can be a liability in performing difficult tasks. They also found that expectancies really have little effect on people’s emotions to their task performance.1

Guess maybe it doesn’t pay to have negative expectations. What are your expectations of life with vision loss? Think about it and get back to me. I’ll be here spending my summer watching the corn grow.

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