"The Cycle of Expectations Debt, Greed, and Fear: Understanding the Complexities of Human Behavior"

Aviral Vaid

Hatched by Aviral Vaid

Sep 15, 2023

4 min read


"The Cycle of Expectations Debt, Greed, and Fear: Understanding the Complexities of Human Behavior"

Expectations Debt and the Illusion of Success

In the world of business and personal achievement, there is a phenomenon known as "expectations debt." It is the concept that when we set high expectations for ourselves, our careers, or our investments, we create a debt that must be repaid before we can truly experience the joy and fulfillment we desire. Much like financial debt, expectations debt can accumulate over time, leading to a cycle of disappointment and disillusionment.

Imagine a scenario where your investment portfolio soars during a market bubble. You feel a sense of euphoria and accomplishment as the numbers on your screen continue to climb. However, deep down, you know that this success is not based on sound financial decisions or genuine skill. It is merely a result of being in the right place at the right time. Reality eventually catches up, and the debt of expectations must be repaid. The market corrects itself, and your portfolio plummets, leaving you feeling empty and questioning your abilities.

The Lifecycle of Greed and Fear

Expectations debt often goes hand in hand with the cycle of greed and fear. Greed, at its core, is the desire to acquire more than what we have put in. It starts innocently enough, with the belief that we are right, deserving of success, or owed something for our efforts. This mindset is fueled by the constant craving for productivity and the desire to achieve more while doing less. We begin to delusionally justify our actions, convincing ourselves that we are worth the rewards we seek.

Recognition, attention, and rewards are all powerful motivators. They make us feel good and validate our self-worth. However, just as expectations debt must be repaid, greed eventually meets its match. The economy, or the world at large, has a way of pushing back and determining whether we truly deserve the rewards we seek. When we overestimate our abilities or overvalue our contributions, the bubble bursts, and we are left facing the consequences.

Fear, on the other hand, is the natural response to the repercussions of our greed. As we start to question our actions and face the reality of our situation, fear creeps in. We become blind to the positive possibilities that might arise, just as we were once blind to the negative consequences of our greed. Fear leads us to question our worth, our abilities, and our future prospects. It becomes a vicious cycle, where the fear of failure feeds into more greed, and the cycle continues.

Breaking the Cycle and Finding Balance

Understanding the cycle of expectations debt, greed, and fear is the first step towards breaking free from its grip. Recognizing the patterns and tendencies within ourselves allows us to make more informed decisions and set realistic expectations. Here are three actionable pieces of advice to help navigate this complex cycle:

  • 1. Embrace humility and self-awareness: Acknowledge that success is not solely based on individual merit but is often influenced by external factors such as luck and timing. By staying grounded and recognizing the limitations of our own abilities, we can avoid falling into the trap of expectations debt.
  • 2. Focus on intrinsic motivation: Instead of seeking external validation and rewards, shift your focus to finding joy and fulfillment in the process itself. When we are driven by a genuine passion for our work, the fear of failure diminishes, and greed loses its power.
  • 3. Cultivate a growth mindset: Embrace the idea that failure and setbacks are opportunities for learning and growth. By reframing our perspective and seeing challenges as stepping stones rather than obstacles, we can break free from the cycle of fear and greed.


The cycle of expectations debt, greed, and fear is a complex and ever-present aspect of human behavior. It is fueled by our desire to be right, to achieve more, and to be rewarded for our efforts. However, it is important to recognize that true success and fulfillment come from within, not from external validation or material gains. By embracing humility, focusing on intrinsic motivation, and cultivating a growth mindset, we can break free from this cycle and find a more balanced and sustainable path to success.

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