Living Free of Expectations
One of the most transforming ideas I have encountered is the concept of living without expectations. This may seem irresponsible, unreliable and fickle. In fact, the opposite is true. Living free of expectations requires me to take full and complete responsibility for my feelings, thoughts, actions/reactions and behaviors. Expectations give me permission to complain, blame and throw tantrums. But that leaves a big question: if I don’t have expectations how can I look forward to things, plan ahead, be prepared or hold myself accountable? Additionally, what about the law of attraction? Isn’t a vision board or other types of visualizations for the future also expectations? I would like to explore some of the things I have learned about living without expectations.
Anticipation vs Expectation
Let me just make a distinction here between expectations and anticipation. I can anticipate what needs to be done for example without an expectation. I can look ahead and plan but I maintain the flexibility that my plans could change. It is enjoyable to anticipate going to dinner with friends for example but when the whole plan falls through it is simple to adjust to whatever happens. I can anticipate my kids cleaning their rooms but when they don’t and I find them watching TV, instead of feeling angry I wonder what they need to motivate them and inspire them to clean their rooms. I feel light and free to experiment and find creative solutions to problems. When I expect my kids to clean their rooms my ego feels disrespected when I find them watching TV instead. My ego feels justified in punishing or using guilt tactics to get what I want. Having expectations of the future and other people’s behavior is arrogant and audacious. However, simply anticipating, works fine because anticipation leaves room for any and all possibilities. Anticipation implies that I have a predetermined idea of what might happen and I am open to whatever happens. Expectation implies that I have a predetermined idea of what SHOULD happen and I fix my plans in stone. This always causes disappointment.
When I have expectations I find that I am always disappointed. The romantic date I had been expecting never turns out quite right. The plans I had for work were never completed because of all the interruptions. This can lead to frustrations and disappointments. But if I go on a romantic date which I have been anticipating and a snowstorm requires cancelling the dinner I find myself eager to discover how the evening will turn out. Disappointment is replaced with curiosity and openness. There is an underlying attitude that when things change, the change is always for the better. This may seem like a Pollyanna viewpoint or a naive form of optimism but in truth it is wisdom. I am not hiding my head in the sand or only willing to look at the good and not the bad. It is a perception shift from limitation to possibility. When I don’t get any work accomplished because of all the interruptions I realize (hopefully early on) that I am not meant to work and I look around to see what is calling my attention. Maybe my kids need me and I am ignoring them in my effort to get work done. I can arrange for another time to do my work, such as at night after they go to bed or I can get up early one morning to finish if I need to. When the moment requires me to do so, I let go of my plans and embrace whatever is happening. Suddenly everything becomes easy and effortless. I feel like a success.
Expectations and the Law of Attraction
To live free of expectations may seem like a contradiction to the principles of attracting what we desire into our lives but in fact expectations are obstructions. In my experience, the Universe or Higher Power (or whatever you prefer) is fluid and moving. Everything is flowing. An expectation acts like a dam, blocking and trying to force the flow in a particular direction. But when I align myself with this Higher Power and surrender to it through openness I see rather than seek the future in front of me. Everything is possible without expectations. I can envision myself as a New York Times best-selling author touring the United States on book tour and giving interviews and signing books at packed bookstores. That vision provides me with drive and motivation to keep going when I am tired or feeling hopeless. The vision is simply a focus. The secret is not being attached to the process or the outcome. I have no idea what the future holds for me I only know what I feel drawn to do in each moment. I trust that doing so will lead me to my highest happiness and success. Only when I cooperate with whatever is happening can I be an active participant in creating my own future. I can envision myself doing any number of things but as long as I am attached to the process or outcome (i.e. expectation) I will effectively block what needs to happen, creating frustration and stagnation.
Most things that have happened have always been different than I imagined them to be and quite often better than I imagined them. So, if you think about it, having expectations is like lowering the bar and settling for less. The Universe might have something much more amazing in store for you if you remain open and unattached to the outcome or how it should happen.
Enjoying Life in the Moment
Practicing living without expectations takes me right to the present moment. When I stay in the present moment, expectations are impossible. Expectations project an outcome for the future, immediately taking me away from the NOW and into some future of my imagining. When the future looks different than I expected it to, I feel let down by life. When I remain in the moment there is no future and no past. I can easily move as life demands it and I am ever ready to deal with whatever comes my way.
- “Life is simple. Everything happens for you not to you. You don’t have to like it, it’s just easier if you do.” Byron Katie