When expectations and reality collide, stories fly

A Starbucks line reveals the disconnect between the story in my head, and the world right in front of me.

When expectations and reality collide, stories fly

When expectations and reality collide, stories fly 1024 768 Looking out Loud

This is 60-second Dadspeak—daily reflections on becoming a dad, while still growing up myself. You can find the full mini-pod audio list here.


Not far from my house, there’s a Starbucks that I drive past about once a week. And about once a month, I actually stop for a coffee.

Usually the line is wrapped around the building, literally—10 to 15 cars rounding the parking lot is the norm. But today as I was passing by, there was no line. Zero cars waiting at Starbucks.

My thoughts fired quickly from “Look there’s no line.” to “Maybe I’ll stop for a coffee.” to “They must be closed today. Damn labor shortages.”

But I pulled in for a closer look and saw the lights were on. They were open. And in less than two minutes, I had a hot Americano. (Yes friends in Barcelona, I admit that I like burnt-tasting Starbucks coffee.)

Now, I almost didn’t stop because the line was too short. It violated my expectations so much, that rather than smiling on my luck, my brain went searching for an alternative explanation. I assumed there was a problem.

So much of the way we interpret and act on the world stems from our expectations of how the world is, rather than from what’s actually right there in front of us.

So much of the way we interpret and act on the world stems from our expectations of how the world is, rather than from what’s actually right there in front of us.

We constantly tell ourselves stories about why the world is the way it is. When an observation violates our expectations, we invent another story.

We are explanation-generating machines. And we’re really good at it.

But there’s often a huge disconnect between the story we tell ourselves and the actual world right in front of us. This can happen at work with how interpret a coworker’s motivations, or at home when we try to decode our partner’s behavior after an argument.

The point? First of all, be aware that this is how we’re built. And the next time you catch yourself telling a story about why something is the way it is, go in for a closer look before you drive by with your beliefs unchecked.



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