Out of all the things that we as humans can learn, master and move beyond, I think expectations have to be one of the hardest. I would even go as far as say that I think it is easier to master forgiveness than letting go of expectations.
The way our world, society and lives are set up, one can almost not escape coming into contact with hundreds of expectations each day. We expect things of our job settings, co-workers, family members, friends, transit systems, stores, and the list goes on and on.
And thus I think one of the most challenging things to transcend beyond, in the journey towards enlightenment is the idea of letting go of all expectations. While some people think this is impossible and cannot fathom such a way of being, many enlightened masters who are here now or have come before us, saw this as nothing more than bringing into consciousness, yet another aspect of the inner being.
Thus today, I want to explore some of the challenges of expectations and helpful ways of moving beyond them and learning to free yourself from their clutches.
What Are Expectations?
Whenever we attach an emotionally charged response to any item, situation or person based on their actions or outcomes, we are exercising the idea of expectations.
A very important idea to understand though before we go any further is that expectations are not the same as intentions. For example, we are actually engaged in two different modes of being when we say “I expect to get into college” versus “I intend to get into college.”
The former can lead to disappointment, anger, ill feelings, etc., while the latter (if it is an honest intention) leads to positive actions and accountability. Another way to distinguish between the two, is that expectations are usually born out of our unconsciousness, where as intentions come from a conscious state of being.
A lot of people go through life expecting all sorts of things from others and life itself in general, but actually doing very little in terms of their own actions and accountability for what they want or need. Whenever we are stuck in the mode of expectation, we are putting the onus on the third party, instead of ourselves. This of course is normal, natural and the only way that “it is” for many, but from a deeper perspective not the way it necessarily should be in a way that serves us. I once heard a great quote, which at the moment I cannot remember where it came from that said, “just because things are the way they are, doesn’t mean that’s the way they should be.”
Is There Life Beyond Expectations?
The short and quick answer is yes! When we start dropping the expectations we hold over other people and ourselves, all of a sudden it is like a huge burden is lifted from our shoulders. We are freer, we are happier, we are livelier, we are much, much more forgiving, we are more in control of our life and ultimately have a higher quality of life than many could imagine.
Not having expectations, does not mean that you lose your ambition or that you lose your will for life. No, no, on the contrary you free yourself and become even more wilful to live and enjoy life. It also does not mean that you are cold, selfish or uncaring as some may see this as, in the initial onset. You are actually loving and caring for people deeper, because you do it more unconditionally. Of course this is a challenge in itself for people, but one that I highly recommend undertaking.
Finally, while it may not be feasible to overcome expectations 100% given our way of life and how deeply involved in society you are, my hope is that if this peaks your interest, if you are ready for your next level of growth, you do not dismiss it as unrealistic or impossible. Remember in our last post, nothing is impossible and everything is possible. We just have to have the belief and will within.
I have personally been very aware of expectations in general and how we use them, ever since I read material from Neale Donald Walsch, Abraham Hicks and Wayne Dyer. All of a sudden I had the “aha” moments, I saw the “light” and I was inspired to live a new way. Well upon trying it, I have to say, wow – what an amazing way to live, pure freedom for the inner being and soul! Obviously it did not come overnight and I am still learning, practising and growing in truly applying this to every level.
The one area that I am proud to say that I feel I have mastered this quite well, I would almost say exceptionally well, is with my husband, in that we do not have or place expectations upon each other in our relationship. While some of you at this point may be shaking your head either from disbelief or scepticism, how anyone in their right mind can be together, let alone married and not have expectations of each other, I assure you it is very much possible. It works when we understand the deeper concepts of unconditional love, living in the moment of now, living a true unity and plain and simple living consciously. It works so well in fact, that I guarantee you a better quality of life and relationships, when you try it yourself.
Someone might think, but don’t you expect him to do stuff around the house and vice-versa? The answer is no. When you act consciously, out of your highest self, you always know what to do. Someone else does not need to tell you what to do, when to do it and how to do it. We all have to be able to express ourselves freely, in order not to suppress our spirit, and who better to do that with than your spouse/partner. And what if say one of us doesn’t want to for whatever reason do something, whether around the house or other. Well guess what, the world does not stop turning and that is okay, because ultimately we are in this together, as a unity, which makes us become very in sync and at the same time very understanding. You just have to leave your ego out of it.
It works on the small stuff and it works on the big stuff, because a relationship should bring out your best, not your worst, should make you grow, not shrink and should be freeing, not limiting.
So having said that, I have been quite successful at applying this to other family members, friends and co-workers, in no way expecting them to treat me the same way, just me freeing myself and them from the expectations I hold. Some of them of course do not believe that I really do not expect anything of them when they find out, because they themselves cannot get past expecting things from others. But ultimately this is fine, and in no way hinders me and my growth. I cannot change that for them, until they decide to change it for themselves.
However there has been one area of expectations that has always seemed to keep me on my toes, almost as if to give me a test to bring me to the next level and to make sure I guess, that I do not become too complacent and too sure that I got it all. What is that thing? Expectations in society. Let me tell you what I mean in the next section with a personal example.
Challenges of Societal Expectations
When we go to the gas station, we expect there to be gas. When we water our lawn, we expect it to grow. When we buy a new item, we expect it to work. So leaving self, family and friends out of this, do you see what I mean – you know the daily tasks of every day living in society.
So what happens and how do you act when your “expectations” are not met? I think the answer is obvious for most of us, somewhere in between disappointment, frustration and anger. And while many of us think this is completely normal, if we look at this from a deeper spiritual and self-growth perspective we can quickly see that while it may be “socially normal”, it is not in any way “natural” for our inner being. By reacting in these ways, we are only bringing negative states of grief, sadness, anger and much more to ourselves. And remembering how the Law of Attraction works, this in no way sets us up for positive creations or interactions.
Okay, so allow me to share a personal example from just this past weekend that gave me an amazing lesson and area for growth where the challenges of expectations are concerned.
On a local web classified page, kind of like Craig’s list, I found a furniture item that I was interested in purchasing. In fact I consciously intended to find this exact item, for a couple of weeks and so was thrilled when I saw the poster’s ad. The picture was included, as the original from the store it was purchased at and based on the ad write-up, it was the exact thing I wanted. Perfect I thought and so I set up the sale, to go and purchase it, including getting appropriate transportation to fit this item. I made sure over the phone that the item was not damaged and not for a second did it occur to me to verify every detail of the item to make sure I was getting what I “expected”. It was a simple bookcase after all, who would lie about that?
Well when I arrived at the seller’s place, I was a bit thrown back to put it mildly. The item was not what I expected, nor was it the item that the picture was of on the ad. Had I known at the moment that it was not even part of the series I was looking for I would not have bothered, but I just thought that it was a smaller version of the bookcases in this particular series. Had it also not been for the fact that I arranged special transportation for it, I also would not have gotten it. So I agreed to buy it at a slightly lower cost. It wasn’t until I got home and compared it to the other bookcases I have in that series, that I realized that this was not at all the item that it was advertised as or in any way part of the series I wanted. Ouch!
I have to tell you, in the grand scheme of things it is just a simple bookcase and not a whole lot of money or anything, but the feeling of having your expectation crushed was something else. I don’t think it was so much the expectation even, as the idea of well, plain and simple being deceived. I can tell you my ego was not happy. I thought I could handle it, I thought I could just let it go, but my ego had other plans.
I expected a certain item. My expectation turned out to be wrong, now what? I have to tell you I refuse to get cynical and not trust anyone or anything. Living like that would be painful. But I just couldn’t understand why or how anyone would do something like this over a silly bookcase. I can understand a hundred or thousand dollar item, sure, we hear of major deceptions and scams all the time, but this?
So anyhow, I thought that I need to let this person know how I felt. I wanted to write them an email, for the sake of justice, and explain this situation, so this would not happen to anyone else. Yes, well that is what I told myself and I really thought I was right – that it was the right thing to do. But when we try to wrong another, is it not just the ego within speaking?
Hence, after a really nice talk from my husband, I realized fair and square – whatever this person did or didn’t do, it was my expectation that fueled this entire event to become as unpleasant for me as it did. In my husband’s eyes, we got an even better bookcase than the other one would have been – God I love that man! Did it have to be that way, no. Could I have asked more questions before I arranged the sale? Could I have gone with my intuition and refused the item when I got there? Could I have accepted the new item as a blessing in disguise? Of course! I could have done so many other things before, during and after. I had choices at every stage. We always, all do.
The point of this learning exercise was clear and simple – the situation was not “bad” or “good”, it just “was”. I could have reacted in many different ways, but I chose to give it the meaning I did, a meaning that was heavily fueled by the ego that got scarred. And that is the key problem that happens to so many of us daily when things don’t go our way.
We always have a choice in how we react, we always have the option of taking full and conscious accountability for a situation, but it is just too easy to blame the other person and see ourselves as the victim. So needless to say, the email did not get written, my ego has since become silenced and I am enjoying our new bookcase.
In the end, the challenges that come with expectations are as diverse as the snowflakes out there. We are bombarded with numerous things each day that require of us to “expect” and “place the responsibility” on the other person OR intend consciously and place the responsibility upon ourselves. In the short term, the former of course is much easier and more comfortable for many of us to do. But in the long run, when we step back, look deeper, it is not the option that serves our growth, our soul evolution or our inner being.
Ultimately, it is not rocket science that having broken expectations does not feel good, but it is only because we chose to give our “power/control” to the other person and we feel wronged. Well actually, it is only our ego that feels wronged.
It is not about the fact, of never being able to trust others, but when we do trust others, may we understand that they are human beings, free to do, be and create as they choose. And what is the right thing to do, for one person, may not be the right thing for another. Hence, we have to understand that we can expect and we can trust, but if things do not go our way, it is only the ego that got bruised, as our soul knows better not to judge or limit any other being from being, doing or expressing themselves in any way they want.