How can expectations hijack our happiness? And how can we snatch it back?
The soles of the rain dancer’s feet struck the ground fiercely and rhythmically as if it were beating the hide of a drum. A cloud of dry, arid dust billowed up from the ground with each and every successive stomp. The rain dancer’s hands whipped and whirled wildly about like the winds of the unruly desert.
As he stared stoically into the horizon, his heart longed to see even the faintest outlines of a rain cloud in the sky. But as the oppressive sun began to set, not a single one materialized in the star-studded sky.
Exhausted and defeated, the rain dancer finally surrendered and shuffled his way back into town. He collapsed onto his familiar stool at the corner of the bar. As he began to guzzle the cold, foamy beer that was thrusted before him, his mind whirled with frustration over why he wasn’t able to summon the rain with his dance. The entire village was relying on him, and he felt like a failure. For he was not able to call down the rain and end the drought.
As he pondered what he could be doing wrong, he suddenly became very aware of the presence of water in his half-drunken glass of beer. As he frantically gestured for the owner to come over to his table, he asked him, “How is it possible that you can brew all these barrels of beer in the midst of such a long drought?”
The owner smiled and said “I spend all my time during the day making rain barrels. So on the rare days where there is a great rainfall, all the barrels will get filled. And because I have so many barrels, I will always have enough rainwater to brew beer until the next rainfall arrives.”
Before the owner returned back to work, he said, “Rather than spending all your energy dancing for rain, have you considered making barrels to catch it instead?”
People who set their expectations on things they have no control over, are like the rain dancer who tries to control the rain. They will only end up feeling powerless and hopeless whenever no rain appears. But the ones who set their expectations on things they do have control over, are like the barrel maker. For they know each and every action is meaningful and impactful; even if they don’t see any rain for that day.