The life lesson that’s appeared in my life, over and over, in different ways.

The life lesson that’s appeared in my life, over and over, in different ways.

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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  1. 1

    Great article, Georgia. Totally agree that expectations are a MAJOR source of suffering and they can be sneaky and insidious how they finegle themselves into our minds as though they are innocent thoughts! They are not!

  2. 3

    I agree on the first two points about sports and university but I have some trouble with the last two items Valentines and friendship. I know there are lots of thoughts around Valentines Day and the hype and the commercialism of the holiday, etc. But …. if it is important to you to celebrate Valentines Day and your partner who would and should hopefully know this about you makes no effort on your behalf… and yes I know it was your first relationship but I would hope that your partner would make the effort and do something on Valentines for you even if he didn’t care one way or another for himself but he would make the effort to do something special and nice for you (doesn’t need to be lavish) and he’d do something just because he knew that YOU enjoyed celebrating it. It’s one thing to not receive flowers or some little gesture but to flat out not recognize a holiday or occasion that I would have hoped he knew was important to YOU is not okay (it isn’t about the holiday it is about the fact that he didn’t care enough to be thoughtful and do something for you because you mattered to him and what mattered to you was important to him because he wanted for you to be happy). I think the business of making excuses for people’s bad behaviour ties into the issue that a lot of people struggle with with regard to settling in relationships and being with / surrounding ourselves with people that don’t treat us very well because deep down we are struggling big time with low self worth and as a result we unfortunately put up with not so great individuals that don’t treat us very well, respect us and/or go the extra mile for us. The same could be said around the friendship topic. In earlier years I was the person who put up with crappy boyfriends that didn’t celebrate the holidays, our anniversary, my birthday or my successes/achievements, etc. … I had crappy friends who I couldn’t count on that bailed and didn’t follow thru on commitments and I made up LOTs and LOTS of excuses for their inconsiderate and rude behaviour because I didn’t believe deep down that I had “value or worth” and felt I “deserved” to be treated so badly. With time and more life experience I eventually worked thru my issues around not valuing or loving myself and in return I realized that I had surrounded myself with people who were guaranteed to treat me badly as they were there as teachers in my life journey that they were there to reflect / mirror back to me my low self worth. To highlight the issues I needed to work on. Once I figured out how I treated myself that if I didn’t value me no one else would which was reflected back in the less than wonderful people I’d attracted into my life and realized I had to learn to truly love and value myself that I would no longer settle, accept and/or make excuses for people and their bad behaviour (who had treated me badly and ultimately didn’t value me) and that I would no longer put up with that type of treatment from others. For me I finally realized that there comes a time in ones life we’re we need to set strong, respectful, healthy, loving, supportive and kind boundaries in our life and no longer settle for less than in our relationships. We teach people how to treat us and if they are violating my boundaries and not being respectful towards me I don’t have time for that business anymore. I do agree that we need to roll with things as to how life unfolds and be open along the journey as it can turn out far better than we ever dreamed! But when it comes to relationships and how people treat us respectfully vs disrespectfully I do have expectations and boundaries that I expect to be met – meaning treat me with respect, value me and my time, as I will of you or I have no time or interest in investing in a relationship with you. Some may not agree but I used to let people walk all over me and once I finally learned to love and respect myself – I have to say it was a total game changer!!!

    • 4

      Hi, Paula!
      Thanks for your comment. I am a firm believer in boundaries and in clearly communicating those in relationships and upholding them. It is unfortunate that people often find themselves in relationships that do not serve them because of poor boundaries (or no boundaries).
      I consider expectations, in the sense that I was referring to them in this post, different from boundaries.
      What I was referring to was really the fact that we cannot control anything other than how we respond to it – we can’t control anyone else or their words or actions. We can’t expect them to make us happy, or feel fulfilled, or loved, or worthy. All of that has to come from within. With that in mind, I feel it’s appropriate to let go of expectations, even in relationships. That doesn’t mean not having boundaries. To me it means not expecting someone to be anything other than exactly who they are. In the situation with my friend, it was my choice to keep asking them to do things for me, even when past experiences showed me the unlikeliness of them following through. It’s up to me to learn from those past experiences and make a choice how to respond. Which could mean either not being friends with them anymore if I feel that the relationship is not serving me, or, remaining friends and adjusting my expectations ie. not asking them to be anything except exactly who they are. That’s my take!
      Be well

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