If there is one life lesson that’s appeared in my life, over and over, in different ways, it’s definitely:
Let go of expectations.
When I reflect on the times in my life that I have experienced disappointment, frustration, sadness, or doubt, many of those experiences can be pinpointed back to a specific expectation I had set.
There was the time that I was certain we would come out the tournament champs at the bantam softball tourney, and instead we fell short and came in 2nd – I felt like a failure.
The tough months of first year university when I expected my grades would stay up at their usual level and didn’t account for how challenging of a transition it would be and how much it would impact my academic performance – I felt ashamed.
The first Valentine’s Day shared in my first, long-term relationship when I assumed I would be getting flowers and didn’t – I felt forgotten.
The friend I have who is a great person, but horrible at following through on commitments, and yet I still ask them to help me with things and think that they actually will, even though they always bail – I feel betrayed.
In all of these scenarios I held an expectation and it wasn’t met.
Now, re-imagine the scenarios I shared above…
I enter the bantam softball tournament with no expectation of the end result, just happy to play and enjoy the game. When we come in 2nd I am proud of our effort and performance as a team.
I head off to first year university, excited for the new experience and ready to cut myself some slack if my grades slip because I know it might be a big transition. When I get my grades back and they aren’t what I’m used to receiving, I applaud myself for doing my best.
Valentine’s Day roles around and I have resisted getting caught up in the hype, instead I decide that whatever happens that day I am going to stand confident in the knowledge that I am cared for.
I have a book shelf that I need help putting together – my friend offers to help, but I know that they aren’t the most reliable when it comes to following through on commitments. I accept their offer without getting my hopes up that they will actually help – if they come, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. If they don’t, I won’t sweat it.
See the difference?
Expectations = suffering
When you are attached to a certain idea of how things should be, you have an expectation that things should happen at a particular time and in a particular way. When your expectations aren’t met, you experience suffering. Disappointment, anger, frustration, doubt, dis-ease, sadness, betrayal, not enoughness, shame, overwhelm.. these are all forms of suffering.
Letting go of expectations = freedom from suffering
Having an expectation colours the way you view the world. You simply see life unfolding in the context of whether it’s meeting your expectation or not, and this can cause you to miss out on recognizing some of the unexpected goodness that can appear, even when life takes a turn we weren’t expecting. When you let go of any preconceived idea of how things should be, you can more easily embrace exactly how life is unfolding, moment to moment, with gratitude and grace.
Have you ever had an expectation that wasn’t met? How did you feel? How do you practice letting go of expectations in your own life? Share below!
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