If All Else Fails, Lower Your Expectations?

Steve Gilliland
Special to the Globe

The title of a recent Hutchinson News column by Amanda Miller left me scratching my head; until I read it through and realized how spot-on it was pertaining to my time in the outdoors.

The article was entitled ”The Power of Low Expectations” and caught me off-guard, because Amanda, as seen through her writing style, seems to be quite bubbly and cheerful.

The gist of the article however, was that we often set our selves up for what we see as constant failure, or we miss any enjoyment in  the task at hand  because we set our expectations unreasonably high.

When I was a kid, an older coworker always used to say, “If all else fails, lower your expectations.”

Although witty, I disregarded most of what he told me, because this was a man that said he went home each night and tossed his hat in the backdoor; if the hat stayed in, he too went inside, but if it came flying back out, he went away and tried again later.

Today, however I can see the value in at least monitoring our expectations as we go.

My wife Joyce is usually the one who  maintains the better outlook when we go afield. Listening to the great horned owl call near our deer blind, or watching a group of does and fawns slip silently across the waterway in front of us, or hanging out the open blind window to watch a colorful songbird below as it flits from branch-to-branch all  make her just as happy as harvesting a nice buck.

Reading a book when the fish aren’t biting brings her just as much joy as if the fish were throwing themselves into the boat. Me, on the other hand, not-so-much.

In my defense, I’m a goal-oriented creature so failing to attain a goal drives me mad.

Also, according to my wife, I often shift into “conquer mode” where all that matters is “conquering” what I/we are there to do. While these are not bad qualities for life, they are lousy  road-blocks to enjoying the outdoors.

When trapping, my expectations are full traps,( after all, isn’t that the point) so when my traps aren’t catching predators, I beat myself up and spend all my time trying to diagnose what I’m doing wrong, when I should stop and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation around me and the beautiful, luxurious fur of the ones I do catch.

When we have hunted deer for a couple days and have not yet seen or harvested our annual venison, (that’s why we’re there isn’t it) I begin  to spend my time analyzing every detail to find the flaws in our plan, when I should be hanging out  the open blind window to watch the songbird, or listening for the owl.

When it has been a spell without a fish biting, I get antsy and am ready to leave (after all we are there to catch fish) when I should be marveling that God created something that  breathes under water  and lives in huge basins of water called lakes.

Maybe I don’t need to lower my expectations as much as alter them to allow for time to appreciate God’s Creation around me. In her column, Amanda goes on to say, “Whether they be unreasonable or maybe even  quite reasonable, not all expectations should be grasped too firmly; my contentment should be based on something much firmer than whatever I planned on happening.”

Hmmm, good advice as we continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com