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  • Writer's pictureLinda Buchanan

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Updated: Jun 15, 2020


Photo by Linda Buchanan in Costa Rica

Nicholas Göke, who writes for Medium.com, shares the following story:

Two men visit a Zen master.

The first man says: “I’m thinking of moving to this town. What’s it like?”

The Zen master asks: “What was your old town like?”

The first man responds: “It was dreadful. Everyone was hateful. I hated it.”

The Zen master says: “This town is very much the same. I don’t think you should move here.”

The first man leaves and the second man comes in.

The second man says: “I’m thinking of moving to this town. What’s it like?”

The Zen master asks: “What was your old town like?”

The second man responds: “It was wonderful. Everyone was friendly and I was happy. Just interested in a change now.”

The Zen master says: “This town is very much the same. I think you will like it here.”

We don’t realize how much we project our expectations onto whatever situation we find ourselves in. I have a long-standing fear that people will misunderstand my intentions. This causes me to be defensive when I think this is happening which then increases the chances that someone will misunderstand me. If you believe that people can't be trusted, then this will affect the way that you interact with them, often times creating an outcome similar to what you fear. For instance, I know someone who hesitates to make any decisions about social outings for fear that others will blame him if things don't go well. But his difficulty making even simple decisions or at least expressing a preference about social plans ends up creating confusion and frustration for those around him. Conceivably resulting in some of those people blaming him anyway. He's creating the very thing he fears. Conversely, if you believe that most people will be accepting of you, this will free you to act in a way that the people with whom you are interacting will appreciate - thus reating a collection of positive experiences.


Negative expectations may feel very justified because of how often you’ve experienced a similar outcome, but what if that’s because you are creating the outcome over and over? It may not be your circumstances or the other person that needs to change. See if you can identify a negative expectation that you carry into your current experiences and relationships. In your next interaction, pretend like you believe the opposite and see what can happen. I would love to hear from you. Please scroll down to the bottom of this page (past the banner of recent posts) to leave a comment.

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4 Comments


Linda Buchanan
Linda Buchanan
Feb 25, 2019

Thanks, Nancy!

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Nancy Steffke
Nancy Steffke
Feb 25, 2019

Great article, thanks so much for sharing! It is surprising to find how often negative expectations creep in now that I am aware of them.

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Unknown member
Feb 23, 2019

Thanks, Becky! I appreciate what you do to help others!

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Becky Jones, Psy.D.
Feb 23, 2019

Linda, as always you have found a "word for the wise" that will help me and my clients this week! Keep the inspiration flowing-

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