Living Without Expectations

October 23, 2016

Expectations don’t let us live freely. They don’t let us accept the course of things, since we believe that by wishing for something specific, be it approval, perfection or commodity, it necessarily has to happen. But the truth is that whatever has to happen, will happen, whether we are okay with it or not.

People many times try to take on the fantasy role of divinity. We wrongly think with “shoulds” towards ourselves, others and life in general. We say things like “my boss should treat me nicely and not yell at me”, “things should always go smoothly for me, without putting in much effort” or “I should do my job well because if not, that means I am scum”. Who do we think we are? A judge? A god? Who can rightly say what should or should not be or happen?

When we live our lives waiting for it to work as we expect it to, for things to happen as we would like or for others to treat us how we think we deserve to be treated, we are actually being slaves to the things we expect.

Living with expectations turns us into weak people on an emotional level, since we wait for things to happen just as we wish. And this, of course, won’t always be the case. In fact, a significant amount of the time, life is going to make a turn differently from what we expected or planned.

If we don’t train ourselves to let go of expectations and embrace whatever life may bring, we run the risk of suffering greatly, of becoming depressed or being overcome with anxiety. Each one of us chooses what we want, because each one of us is in charge of our own emotional state.

girl looking at the sea

How can I free myself from expectations?

The key is in learning the difference between what is within your control and what is not. I cannot control the thoughts or the attitude of others. Nor can I control the circumstances of the world and life itself. However, I can control the way I interact with it, how I think about and face it.

When we try to control the uncontrollable, obviously we become frustrated because what we want to happen is never going to happen. Our room to maneuver is reduced to us being able to do things the best way we know how or behave as best we can, but that doesn’t mean that we will get rewarded for it. It doesn’t mean that everything is going to go according to our expectations and desires. Let’s let go of that absurd idea and start accepting reality.

Think, for example, that someone tells you one day: “The sky should be the color of green apples. Simply because, because I like that color and I hope that one day it will turn that color.” What would you think? Surely you’d think that that person has mental problems, that they have an absurd wish, that it will never come true for the simple reason that it is impossible. And because no matter how much you may like something, it doesn’t mean that it necessarily has to happen. 

In the same sense, when we harbor expectations in our life, with our own affairs, we are imposing and demanding that these things happen. When it is simply not going to happen and it doesn’t need to happen either.

lady and bird

You are not a god

Therefore, when you notice that you live with expectations in your mind, and your inner dialogue contains a “should”, remember that you are not a god that can change the progress of things. You are only a human being like any other that simply does the best they can, but that doesn’t imply that you are going to be okay or that life is going to be fair.

You can also ask yourself, who said that things have to go well for me? Where is it written that people should treat me as I deserve? Can I control other people’s actions in any way? Is it any good for me to think that the world is forced to satisfy me, and expect this to happen?

When you find the realistic and rational answers to these questions and change your inner dialogue from “should”s to “I would like that, but it might not be like that and I don’t need it anyway” or “I don’t expect to get a present for our anniversary, even if it were fantastic if they gave me one”, you will notice that you will now be much more strong and free.

You may have detached yourself from irrational expectations, rigidity, obtuseness, and you’ll start to accept whatever the universe has in store for you. Sometimes you will like it, sometimes you won’t. But that’s what life is all about.

If everything was always perfect and the way we would like, living would be pointless. Joy doesn’t exist without sadness. Satisfaction doesn’t exist without disappointment. Success doesn’t exist without failure. In order to feel the tickle that reaching and accomplishing an expectation causes, you have to experience and endure frustration.

Start letting go today! Write all of your expectations down on a piece of paper, towards yourself, others and the world. Now start modifying them. You would like them come true, but it is not necessary for them to do so. And no matter what happens, you will accept and tolerate them. Practice a more mature and strong inner dialogue, and you’ll come out winning in the end.