Unreasonable Expectations

March 28, 2011

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My wife and I watch a lot of Home and Garden Television. There is one show that my wife chooses to watch that simply grabs my attention, it is called House Hunters.  What strikes me the most about this show is the unreasonable expectations of the featured home buyers. Most (but not all thankfully) of the featured couples, fully expects to step into the type of home that their parents currently own or even better. They completely discount the years of savings, the slow steps from a small to medium to elegant home, that their parents had to endure. They are fully expecting to buy a home that is 3, 4 even 5 times their combined annual income, with the expectation of having a child without affecting their ability to afford the home in the long run.

I remember consulting with my father before attempting to purchase my first home, apparently I am old fashioned or my father has a good memory about what he could afford with a growing family. We chose a house that was almost exactly twice our combined income. The loan officer actually called me cheap to my face. When I transferred with my company, I was able to move up to a more expensive house, mostly because they covered my closing costs at both ends. Again, we went for twice our combined income. This time the real estate agent tried to pressure me into a larger debt. He explained that my salary was guaranteed to go up. I asked him to back up that guarantee with his own money. He refused, I got a new agent.

Ten years later, a full twenty years after getting out of school, we bought a house comparable to what my parents had when I moved out. I guess for the show, I do not have the right frame of mind. I do not think of a house as an investment. I look at as a place to live where the rent can actually be recouped eventually.

This problem of expectation is not limited to house buying, the show just provides a very clear example. I have worked with people who expect promotions and recognition as if some effort they have put forward is ample proof that they will continue to achieve at the same rate for ever. I have met people who truly expect the government to anticipate and fulfill their every need. I have watched as customers in stores have expressed their belief that since they spent $2.13 they should be treated somehow special. There are churches where the people expect to be entertained and cared for because they write a check each week. I have heard parents berate teachers because there child is special and should be treated better.

I believe that we all need a does of proportion. Actually think about what we deserved based on what we are doing. If we are buying the cheapest car, we should not expect it to run like the best vehicle out there. When we attend group, government or private, we should see what we can do, rather than walk in with expectations as to what should be done for us. President Kennedy said it very well, “Ask not what your country can do for you; rather ask what you can do for your country.” I think that this should be expanded to your community, you school, your church, even your family. Let us, at least for a little while, push aside our own petty desires and consider what actions will provide the greatest good.

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