Do you find yourself disappointed when your expectations aren’t met? Do you resist what happens because you were expecting something different? Then you are not alone.
Expectations are belief systems about how things are supposed to be. And when we believe them without question we set ourselves up for a fall.
I shouldn’t be caught in traffic, it should be sunny today, he should have called when he said he would. Expectations creep into the most mundane parts of our everyday experience and, as you well know, are a great source of stress and unhappiness.
Expectations: It’s All in the Mind
A recent commenter wrote about expectations in two important areas of her life: expecting recognition and financial reward from working hard at her job and assuming that others would be as loyal as she is in relationship. In both cases, she was burned.
She asks, “If you do X-Y-Z, shouldn’t you get the return? How do you remove the attachment to outcomes?”
Expectations seem to develop automatically as a result of life circumstances and our reactions to them. Here’s how it works. Without even realizing it, an idea forms in your mind that expects, hopes for, or thinks it deserves a particular outcome. For example, “I’m doing a great job on this project. I’m sure I’ll get that promotion when it comes up.”
Ouch! This is why you are in trouble.
- You have a personal desire – something you want but don’t currently have.
- Your focus is on the future.
- You forget your right-now experience.
The mind revs up with images and stories of an imagined future where you will get exactly what you want, and that becomes your lived reality. But here’s the problem: it’s not actual reality, and we are not in control.
Reality is fresh and alive, impersonal and full of possibility. It doesn’t decide what to do based on our personal images and stories or what we desire and hope for.
You might not even realize the expectation has formed until real life wields its sword, and what you want to happen doesn’t. Then you react with frustration or disappointment, squarely in resistance to what is, thinking that life isn’t fair and wondering what you did wrong.
Interested in finding your way out of this tangle? Then recognize and investigate your thoughts. An expectation is a thought, and every thought is worth questioning because at its core it is untrue.
Is it true that you should get the promotion or you shouldn’t be sitting in traffic or the weather should be sunny?
Your thoughts about what should happen (expectations) have nothing to do with it. There is thought, which is ephemeral and insubstantial, and there is reality, which is real and true.
See how it doesn’t make sense to believe your expectations?
A Lifestyle Free of Expectations
Stay conscious and alive to your moment-to-moment experience, and expectations will have nowhere to land. How?
- Make truth and understanding a top priority in your life – in what you read, what you do, who you spend time with.
- Set aside time every day to reflect on your reactions to see if expectations have taken hold.
- Investigate all thoughts, and rest in what is real.
- Surrender personal control, and receive what is offered.
If you want freedom from the trap of expectations, stop believing thoughts. Recognize the truth that you are one with the unfolding of reality. Then live here, infinitely loving, clear and grounded…fully available to life.
Troubled by expectations? What helps you to be free of them? I’d love to hear…