My entire life I’ve been battling with my mind. A mind that loves to create and vividly imagine how things will and should go at an upcoming event, discussion, confession or anything with any level of importance. A mind that is so vivid that you can often find me talking as myself, to myself in this imagined reality as I get ready, lay in bed, or take a shower.
One way of looking at this is to be in amazement of the mind’s creative potential. Think about it, it has the ability to mix past experience, hopes, characters, and so many other factors together to vividly create a version of something that hasn’t even happened yet. A version that is so compelling and cinematic that it quite often manages to evoke real emotions and in most cases very real expectations of how things should go.
I bolded the word expectations because it is what the second way of looking at the mind’s creative power is centered upon. For many of us, myself included, expectations (whether we’d like them to be or not) are at the core of so much of what we do. We develop them, hold onto them and use them as a basis for evaluation in comparison to what actually plays out. The movie ‘(500) Days of Summer‘ does a perfect job at portraying this in what I think is one of the most creative and relatable scenes in cinematic history.
For those that have not seen the film, the above scene is a comparison of Tom’s (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) expectations versus the reality of what plays out at a function that he is invited to by his ex-girlfriend Summer (played by Zooey Deschanel), who he still holds feelings for. When watched together, as the filmmakers evidently intended the viewing audience to do, the scene can be quite heartbreaking as it shows a vulnerable man with such high hopes for an evening instead being forced to deal with a worst-case scenario.
We may not have the visual luxury of being able to create a split screen within our minds, but when we allow our mind to develop expectations this is precisely what we unnecessarily put ourselves through. Now many may argue that expectations can often be a great source of motivation, but are they even necessary?
Re-watch the scene, however this time only give your attention to the half representing ‘reality.’ Yes, Tom discovering that Summer is now engaged is still heartbreaking, but everything prior to that is really quite ordinary and even holds great potential. Maybe not potential for what Tom’s mind has led him to obsess about, but potential to be in the moment and make the best of a situation filled with people to connect with. Rather than motivate him, the expectations instead cripple him, so much so that every moment (even the most insignificant) is a blow to his hopes.
Finding this scene very relatable to my own experience I now like to use it as a reminder of the importance of living in the moment, and only the moment. Mind created expectations may seem natural and relentless, but the amount of power we attribute to them is always within our control. Just like the old adage says, “the best things always happen when you least expect it,” and of course this holds true, because unlike the things we expect, these moments have nothing to live up to!