Expectation vs Expectancy

Living without limiting your potential.

Word Bird Alert: I can be pedantic about words. It is not just my Mary Poppins English teacher persona coming out, I believe words are powerful things.


When words are misused or misunderstood their meaning can become diluted or confused. The power that lies within their definition is lost and we are robbed of releasing that power into our lives.

Two such words are ‘expectancy’ and ‘expectation’.

They are almost identical twins: two synonymous nouns from the same verb. But I want to look a little deeper. I want to look at two mindsets connected with the words and the power infused within them.

With regards to bringing about personal change in our lives, the difference between the two mindsets is crucial. Do you live with a mindset of expectation or expectancy?


Why many adults secretly don’t enjoy Christmas.


Expectation is a funny thing. It can be built, met, false, natural, unrealistic, and of course, great. The famous novel, and subsequent films, ‘Great Expectations’ are all about personal growth and development, about our own expectations and living up to those of others. Weighty stuff.

An expectation is something that we make out of our expectancy to meet or predict an outcome or event. It is a made thing: ‘made’ is a past participle of ‘make’, it’s done and in the past.

Even apart from all the candy-coated froofrar we are fed by Hallmark and Disney, most kids enjoy Christmas.

For me, the magic had nothing to do with Santa, I loved the lights in the dark, the food, the family together, the presents I got and planned for others. It was love and hope all wrapped up and shared out.

How many of our Christmases are like this as an adult?



I’ve spoken with many adults that have been honest enough to say they no longer want anything to do with Christmas. They see it as a mess, hard work and hassle to celebrate empty consumerism. Ouch, that’s pretty cynical but they have such a bitter taste left in their mouths because they remember something sweeter. They have an expectation of Christmas that their reality is falling far short of. An expectation that they, or someone else, has made (note: past tense).


Set in stone.

If something is ‘set in stone’ it isn’t going to change, like fossils or headstones, or it is so important that it must not change, like the Ten Commandments, memorials, or sculptures.

When we build expectations it can be like building our dreams out of stone.

‘Surely that makes them strong, resilient?’ I hear you cry. It is true, no-one wants to be like little pigs one and two and have their dreams blown down when the wolves of this world come huffing and puffing, but change and remodelling a brick house can be a messy, risky, time-consuming business.

Life rarely goes as planned, it’s like it never got the memo.

These fixed expectations can actually block our progress and growth potential. It can be difficult to move past what we have taken so long to construct so well.

Going into a situation with a set expectation can prevent us from truly living in that moment. We cannot be fully present if we are viewing the present transposed through a filter we made in the past. We’ll be missing the good things around us, the relationships and opportunities.

When our reality doesn’t match up to our expectation we can experience:

· Disappointment

· Resentment

· Anger

· Frustration

· Discouragement to the point of abandoning our goal or dream

· Hopelessness

· Confusion

· We can feel lied to and deceived.

These things, if not dealt with in a healthy way, can become dream killers.

Building our expectations is often seen as part of our development process in hope of fulfilling our dream and yet that very action puts it further out of reach, or could even be the death of it.


Breaking the mould.

To expect: to think or believe something will happen.

Synonyms include: hope, await, anticipate, imagine, calculate, suppose, look forward to. Source: dictionary.cambridge.org

Expectancy and expectation have the same starting point but the small difference between them cause their vectors to finish in different destinations.

Expectancy is not set or fixed solid. It has clearly defined parameters — what a person hopes for, imagines, or is working towards — but it is more flexible, so adaptation and development can happen faster.

“I want to be a policeman like Uncle Bob.’’ (Expectation, closed.)

“I want to be a policeman and I’m looking forward to seeing what possibilities there are open to me in the field.” (Expectancy, open and with room for growth.)

When we are looking at expectancy as a mindset we can see it as something that is positive, fluid, open to change and less rigidly defined than an expectation. It does not mean that you open your mind to any thought that may wander in. Our minds are amazing and powerful so engage brain and use that heart and mind synergy to power towards what you desire.


The marks of someone living in expectancy/with an expectancy mindset:

· Their eyes are open. They are aware of themselves, the world around them, and they dream with their eyes open.

· Their personal and dream development is evolving and flexible. They examine and embrace the changes.

· They are not afraid of change or failure, rather they see potential.

· They will let go of what they need to in able to grow.

· They look for the positive, refusing to be shackled by other’s expectations or negativity.

· They understand the difference between righteous responsibility and duty.

· They practice intelligent, intentional living especially in regards to their purpose.

I’m not there yet but I’m getting closer as I challenge myself to cultivate this attitude of expectancy.



Did you know that the beautiful miniature trees in the art of Bonsai are the same as those that grow to touch the sky?

When we plant our dreams within our own expectations and shape them to how we believe they should look, we loose the opportunity to touch the sky, to grow to our full potential.

Nobody should bonsai their heart, their dreams, their life.


There can be a fine balance between building and developing our dreams (expectancy) and forming an expectation. That expectation may be beautiful, strong, but can it grow and expand if it is so fixed?

When facing a situation, you need only make a small adjustment to be sure you are not holding to a set expectation but rather you’re ready in expectancy to what may be.


I urge you to ‘take every thought captive’.

Prune away what is hampering your growth and regularly ask yourself:

‘Will this nourish my dream, my life?

Will it cause growth, life, does it expand me?

I’d love to hear your feedback, so please join the discussion below.

I write because I want to make a difference — by sharing, even just once, you can too.