Live Without Expectations

By Diane

Expectations: The act or state of looking forward or anticipating that something is going to, or should happen. A perceived notion of how something or someone is supposed to be.

When we have expectations we create a belief system that certain outcomes SHOULD happen. And then, what do we do if things don’t happen the way you expected them to?

We also have expectations for how other people SHOULD behave or react. And when they do not act as expected we are let down, hurt, angry or sad. We may even believe we have been disrespected or offended in some way.

We might expect that our partner will notice or new outfit or hair cut and say something. We might expect that a co-worker will compliment us on a job well done. We might expect that our kids will notice a mess and pick it up.

We expect people to do certain tasks automatically (event though we never made the request). We expect people to appreciate us, reward us and compliment us. When this does not happen we often grip and complain, “they SHOULD have complimented me, they SHOULD have noticed me.”

A SHOULD is an expectation imposed on one person by another. A SHOULD is a personal belief system being hailed as the RIGHT BELIEF and pushed onto another. Maybe their SHOULD is not the same as your SHOULD?

I remember several years ago having a conversation with a friend. She was complaining that no one in her new work environment greeted one another warmly or asked how they doing or feeling. She felt that this was disrespectful and decided that no one there liked her. She translated their behavior (or lack thereof) to mean that her co-workers had not wanted her hired.

My response was two fold. In that particular work environment, people came and went quite often and the work was highly demanding and yet very impersonal.   Perhaps warm personal greetings and acknowledgements were just not the norm?  I also asked her if she greeted her co-workers with a friendly hello and “how are you doing today?” on a regular basis. Her answer? “Well, no I don’t because nobody else does.”

This may seem an extreme example but it points to two important features surrounding expectation. One is that perhaps in this environment warm, personal daily greetings were just not part of the culture. No judgement on her co-workers or on her – just not part of the culture.  And two, if my friend felt like this was important to her perhaps she could begin to greet people and start up warmer conversations with them. Instead of making others wrong because they did not live up to her expectations she could choose to make a choice that was different and important to her.

I love the flower example. A friend complains that her new boyfriend has never given her flowers since they started dating several months ago. She really loves flowers and would expect, that by now, he would have given her flowers. He has taken her out to dinner every weekend, surprised her with tickets to an awesome outdoor concert, gone away with her on several long weekends and yet he must not really care for her because he had not gotten her flowers?   You can see where this is going. Perhaps if she had mentioned that she loves getting flowers? Maybe he just did not know that she liked flowers?

So often we do not realize how a simple expectations, a belief that something SHOULD be a certain way, trips us up and lands us in a pool of anger and frustration. If only we had asked. If only we had made a simple request.

We can get tripped up by circumstantial expectations as well:

  • Waiting a year for a vacation, expecting a week of sun and getting a week of rain.
  • Expecting our children to follow a certain career path that is our choice not theirs.
  • Receiving a not so great meal at a 4 star restaurant you had been looking forward to going to for months.
  • Showing up for a yoga class with your favorite teacher and realizing there is a substitute.

I could come up with a bunch of examples, but the point is that because of expectation in each example we most likely will end up spending the whole time complaining, blaming, being a victim and not enjoying the present circumstance at all. Expectations lock us into a mental construct for a future event. The focus on what we expected prevents us from seeing what else might be possible, it prevents the possibility of  creating something even greater then we could have ever expected (imagined).

Maybe the week away in the rain brings you closer to your partner as you create special and unique ways to spend your holiday. Perhaps your child has a truly special gift you might have missed seeing. Perhaps you run into an old acquaintance at the restaurant and rekindle a deep friendship. And maybe you end up missing an awesome yoga class with a new concept you have never experienced but would really enjoy.

There is so much more possibility when we are able to live without and go beyond the boundaries of our expectations. And there is so much more depth of relationship and communication available to us when we are able to put aside expectation and clearly request how we feel and what we desire.

How much disappointment, anger and unhappiness could we avoid if we pushed expectation aside for a belief in the ever–present power of the moment?

How much power could we gain in our lives if we learned to compliment ourselves: to do, to be and to act because of what we believe and what we desire, rather then what we think is expected of us by others? Or by what we expect form others?

Expectation weaves a tricky and often unseen web. Keep an eye out for it. Watch for expectation in yourself and in others. Practice asking for what you need and desire. Practice trusting the present moment. Practice honoring your decisions. Practice honoring yourself.

“To live your life without expectation, without the need for specific results – that is freedom.”
Donald Neale Walsch