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Expectations- the lens through which we view our world

“GONNNNNGGG….. GONNNNNGGG …..” If you have ever lived in Japan, you have heard the mesmerizing, soothing sound of the temple bell that can be heard throughout a neighborhood, precisely at 6 in the morning, at noon, and at 6 in the evening. I live a half block from the local temple (who needs an alarm clock?), and the monk is my next door neighbor.

I was always impressed that literally like clockwork, no matter the weather – during a heatwave or typhoon, the bell never failed to ring. One morning, I happened to be jogging past just as it hit 6 am, and “GONNNNNGGG…..” It made me nearly jump out of my skin and I looked up expecting to see my monk neighbor.. but no monk. I walked around the bell platform, but there was no one to be seen. It dawned on me then - the whole thing was on a timer - it was automated!

All this time I thought my neighbor was getting up each morning without fail, taking the time to ring the bell.

How disappointing! I had this romantic notion that this was a devotional ritual that was a part of his spirituality.

Then I thought - no, actually this is genius! If I hadn’t happened to look up at that very moment I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t a person ringing the bell. The sound of the bell was still that comforting deep chime. To someone who didn’t know, it didn’t cheapen the experience of hearing the passage of time.

As humans, we make up stories to bring some sort of meaning to our world. It matters not to my monk neighbor if I respect him more or less because I thought he was getting up every morning to do this task. The end result is the same. The bell still chimes 3 times a day throughout the neighborhood.

What stories do you tell yourself? What are you making the actions (or inactions) of others mean to you?

When we are taking care of our health there are certain expectations that come up, that things “should be” a certain way, whether it’s a test result, the number on the scale, or how you feel. Rather than dwelling on the expectations, a more constructive approach is to find what is within your control and what is not, so that you can work on changing the things that you can.

For the things that you cannot, try to reframe how you see things, so that you do not waste precious time and energy by resisting how things actually are and getting stuck in negativity. As Byron Katie states, “when you argue with reality you lose – but only 100% of the time.”

I still find the temple bell as beautiful and calming as before. Even if the more romantic version of the story does not match my previous expectations or preconceived notions, I can choose to believe in a new story of how brilliant this is so that we may all continue to enjoy the old traditions.

We all unknowingly make up stories and see things through our own lens to make sense of the world. Why not choose the version that serves us best?

For more information on mindset shifts, questions about cancer or your health, feel free to reach out by clicking on the contact button or emailing me at

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