26th October 2015

Damp grey Monday. After a weekend filled with more than a few fall excursions with my favorite person, we’re back to Monday, and a gross rain filled Monday at that. As the rain barrels down on our rooftop, I can’t help but set my thoughts back to our fall filled weekend and a word that’s lingering in my head as a result: expectations.

As running and I haven’t been on the prettiest of pages lately, I’ve been in search of podcasts to fill the miles I could normally, quite happily, fill with silence. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a podcast released earlier this year called Invisibilia.

Brought to us by NPR, Invisibilia documents the invisible forces that control human behavior. It is so incredibly fascinating that in the last few weeks, I’ve found reasons to stay out on the road, just to finish episodes.

But back to expectations.

In episode three, Lulu and Alix explore how the expectations we set for both ourselves and others can quite literally transform the world around us. The pair begins by sharing a story from Robert Rosenthal, professor of psychology at the University of California.

In his experiment, Professor Rosenthal brings a group or ordinary lab rats and labels them either “dull minded” or “bright minded” before handing them over to a group of test subjects. While the rats did not possess any difference in intellectual value, when handled by people with these preconceived expectations, the “bright rats” were able to improve their maze learning by 65%, simply by the way they were held, spoken to and interacted with. In other words, expectations changed the outcome.

I found the entire episode fascinating and couldn’t help but gush to P about what could be possible if only we forced ourselves to think differently about our situations. Luckily, we were quickly able to put the thoughts into practice (unknowingly) this weekend as we set out on our first long-ish mountain bike ride in North Georgia.


A short break early on in our ride.

Last fall, we stumbled upon the Jake and Bull Mountain trail system and have been dying to get back up on our bikes. While we didn’t take the plunge on the full trail (see elevation estimates below), we did set out on a shorter loop that would take us ten miles and across some of the most rewarding trail we had seen in years.


We cruised through the first eight miles or so, passing horse after horse, fording two creeks (to which I made more than a few Oregon trail references) and settling into the silence that is listening to gear shifts and leaves crunching. If there is way to feel closer to having heaven on earth, I haven’t found it.

But, oh mile eight. We started up a steady climb, that while not terribly steep, went on. And on. And on. After not biking for a few months, it kicked out butts. Until at about mile nine, when P broke the silence and reset our expectations with a simple reminder, “don’t forget, when we finish this, we can go find boiled peanuts.”

The view of the pumpkin patch (and home of the boiled peanuts) we visited after our ride.

The view of the pumpkin patch (and home of the boiled peanuts) we visited after our ride.

It made all of the difference. If we had watches, we would have probably noticed clocking our fastest mile after that moment, but alas, no watches.

It was the perfect reminder that expectations don’t have to be world changing or even life changing, but they can be moment changing. So while it may be damp, grey and Monday, I’ll hold on to the idea that event the smallest of gestures can set your expectations off in an entirely new direction, and maybe daydream a bit about our next trail ride adventure.