“When you have expectations, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.” – Ryan Reynolds
Expectations paint a picture of a future that may or may not happen. When high expectations don’t materialize, excruciating negativity can set in. It could be the loss of confidence we feel when a few “key people” don’t like our work. It might be the painful disappointment of not being selected, picked or chosen for a specific opportunity that has been attached to “happiness.”
This happens when we project too much power into one single person, thing or event. If that specific objective doesn’t go our way, we’re left with the uneasy feeling that we wasted our time, or worse, that we are failures.
Instead, we can choose to have no expectations. By doing this, we accept the outcomes, whatever they might be. If it’s a failure, we can choose to view it as a lesson learned. It’s not who we are. It’s simply an experience that happened for a reason. If it’s a success, we can choose to be humble and grateful. It might not happen again.
The danger lies in expecting specific situations or circumstances to arise when we have little control of the process or chain of events tied to it. Expecting a boss to give a raise can be fraught with potential disappointment. The decision is based on many factors outside of personal performance – politics, the economy, the budget, etc.
On the other hand, expecting very little of ourselves can lead to low self-esteem. Then we start believing the low expectations, which become self-fulfilling prophecies. When we have “no expectations,” we are starting from ground zero. Whatever happens, happens. We simply choose how to react.
So how do we do it? How can we create the habit of having “no expectations?”
I know one way that works for me. It’s simple to understand, but it can be difficult to execute. It’s focusing on the task at hand. Instead of guessing the future, or worrying about it, we can choose to direct our energy into what’s presently staring us in the face. No expectations, no disappointments.
By directing attention and awareness on the present, we can let go of the future expectations. Life begins to unfold naturally. We make decisions that seem to magically work out. Small challenges seem to not spiral out of control into larger problems.
Instead of depleting our energy by thinking obsessively about potential outcomes, we can channel it into “the right here,” “the right now.” We can choose to trust that the right future will happen if we do the work today, whatever that might be.
Expectations are guesses that are often wrong. Even when they’re right, they often feel different from what was initially created in our imagination. The pain of losing one big game subsides when we recognize the personal achievements that happened along the way.
Rainy weather creates the opportunity for indoor fun. A hospital stay carves out time to reflect and change the trajectory of our life.
Resisting the temptation of setting expectations lets us work from a blank sheet – no false hopes or unrealistic conclusions. No expectations, no disappointments.
You become that artist of your life as it unfolds. You paint what “is” and not what “should be.”