Expectations are not new. We’ve all been on the receiving end of another person’s expectations and we have also set our expectations for others, some situation, or a particular event. We imagine and decide how we want things to unfold. That could include another person’s actions or responses to situations, a conversation with a friend, or even a simple trip to the grocery store. We plan everything out and think we know, so clearly in our mind, how things will go–or shall I say, how things should go. And then whammo! Everything is ruined because the people in the scenario, or the scenario itself, didn’t live up to our expectations. In fact, for many of us, this happens so often, it feels like a curse. The truth is, expectations are all about us, not about the other person in our scenario, and not about the scenario itself.
We make up expectations in our minds based on what we have been taught about the world. But expectations themselves are nothing more than made up ideas set by society, the government, schools, parents and others. Expectations can’t be truths because they vary between countries, cultures, and even families. And since no one is raised in the exact same way as another, as we have all been taught variations of expectations, we can hardly hold another person to our ideas of their life or how they interact with us in our life. For any one of us to hold another person to the thoughts being made up in our head is completely absurd. No wonder expectations lead to so much frustration, disillusion and stress. Expectations even separate us from the ones we love and they keep us from loving ourselves. Investigate this for yourself.
So, just what are expectations? They are strong beliefs that something will happen or be a particular way at some point in the future. Expectations are also a belief that someone will do, or should do, something. Notice the word belief in these explanations. The problem is that beliefs can change and they can be disputed. From this perspective, we can see that expectations are moving targets and to follow them sets up a grueling life with the potential for sleeplessness, exhaustion, and separation from loved ones. In addition, expectations create a lot of negativity, terrible feelings inside, worrying, and they make us say mean things about others and ourselves. It’s a lot of hard work. None of it is in alignment with who we truly are–love itself–and being out of alignment leaves a wide berth for dis-ease and illness. All of this adds up to lots of stress. The good news is we don’t have to live like this. We have the power to change anything we wish to change!
Be Less Stressed Today
Expecting people to act a certain way is a major source of self-created stress in our lives, but with awareness and practice we can reduce this stress. Awareness is a wonderful tool because it allows us to see thoughts, beliefs, and situations in a new light! We can be aware of their origins and notice them when we are projecting them onto others, situations, or even on ourselves. We will see that expectations are nothing more than habits–ones we can get rid of and change for good.
We can use awareness to assist us in reducing our stress by being aware that other people think differently than we do. That may seem logical right now as you read that sentence, but applying it can be a different story. Be aware of this logic when you fall back into the old habit of placing your expectations on someone or something else. Notice the peace and freedom you get from letting expectations go. “Practice makes better”, as my editor and her husband say around their house. With practice, we can let go of the old habits, the old thinking system, and the old expectations. Don’t expect your new found awareness or your opportunity to practice this to look one way or another. This is more expectation–the thing we are letting go of. Allow both awareness and practice to unfold in a magical, practical way–one that you may never have thought of before. Be willing to be pleasantly surprised and at the same time to release your attachment to the outcome.
Next, be aware that our expectations and reactions are really all about us, not others and not situations. When we react to anything, it is usually because we don’t like something in ourselves. We project judgment on others to put the spotlight on someone other than ourselves, as a feeble attempt to get rid of our own negative judgements about ourselves, but this never works. We can’t give away our limiting beliefs. They are ours to find and heal. We must stand and resolve them within ourselves. When we delve into these issues, often we find that we are starving for safety and security, a solid sense of being, less chaos, validation and approval. We want to be somebody and we want to be loved by somebody. And, consequently, we react strongly when we don’t get what we want. The truth is, our safety and sense of being can’t be found outside of us. Everything we are looking for is already within us. We just aren’t taught this.
Finally, we must be aware that many of us struggle with change–we just don’t like it. In fact, we’re afraid of change. We have gotten stuck in a rut of uncomfortable comfort and we see change as a lot of work, or a scary venture. This is where the silly saying, “Better the devil you know than the one you don’t” came from–fear of the unknown, which is what change is to many of us. Deep in our hearts though, we desire nothing more than a change from this mind-created life of chaos and stress.
Opening: Letting Go of Expectations
To reduce stress and begin the practice letting go of expectations, start by opening your mind and your heart. Open your mind and understand that different people know different things and experience life differently from you – and this is okay, this is normal. Think and act from your heart and not from your head or your ego. Your heart will always provide you with the truth about everything. Be willing to determine the motivation for any expectation that you force onto others. There will most likely be something in you that needs control, superiority, safety, or you may simply be afraid. And there is nothing wrong with experiencing these emotions. These emotions provide us with a clue that things are out of balance. With practice you will become aware of the reasons for your expectations. Then you can choose to let go, be free, and leave the stress behind.
Practice not taking anything personally since nothing is personal. I know this is a tall order! And believe me it will take practice. Everyone has their own ideas about life and no one is right or wrong. Realize, too, that everything happens for a reason and you may not know what that reason is right now or perhaps ever, but that doesn’t invalidate the reason. Our egos know a lot less than they think they do.
Where can you start? You can start anywhere, just start somewhere. Don’t stagnate in archaic thought processes that don’t work in your favor or in the favor of others. Be willing to be aware and then to make a conscious choice to do something different than you have always done. You may find a new perspective that is not only refreshing but gives you more peace and improved health. No expectations, of course.