Oh expectation. Like our favorite item on the highest shelf of the cupboard that we simply cannot reach, you tease us and beckon us to loose ourselves before you.
We have all had the experience of being disappointed because of not having our expectations met. It can show up simply or it can consume us. Attachment to expectation is a powerful force that can potentially pull us completely out of center, out of being grateful and present in the moment. It has the power to put our Saboteurs in the drivers seat, to create strife and adversely affect our relationships and opportunities for growth.
Think of a time when you went to see a movie that everyone raved about. Because you expected to be thoroughly entertained, you ended up being let down. As compared to other times when you didn't even know what the movie was about and you ended up loving it. While being let down by a movie is a simple example, it demonstrates how casually we get sucked into the pattern of expecting things to be a certain way. The disappointment from unmet expectations around larger experiences in life can feel devastating and be potentially destructive. This tends to be particularly relevant for most people when they develop expectations regarding major life events such as birthdays, marriage, having children, a new job or relationship, etc. Sometimes it's just not what we thought it would be.
A PERSONAL CONFESSION & LEARNING
Recently, as some of you may know, I got engaged. There was some build up to the anticipated event in the months leading up to the proposal and I admit that I began to develop oddly specific expectations of how I thought the big question would get asked. In fact, as I reflect back on the occasion, I unknowingly came into it with a life time of expectation - years of societally influenced dreams and hopes of how my Beloved would one day propose to me in the most overly romantic and perfect way. I also came into it with a pesky, unfamiliar pressure to have a sensational engagement story to share with friends and really society at large. You can hear the Saboteur in this already, the drama and illusion of perfection and the pressure to be over the top. Of course nothing in life is exactly how we expect it to be and most things are not "perfect". Indeed, as the Universe would have it, my phenomenal fiance proposed in a most beautiful way that truly represented who we both are.... And, it was quite different than the elaborate and inauthentic vision of perfection that I envisioned of how I thought it would go. Admittedly, I had to practice self management during the event so that I could appreciate all of his efforts and see the gifts in front of me instead of attaching to an idea that I had conjured up in my head. In being honest with my phenomenal fiance about it later, we both had great learning around letting go of expectations and releasing parts of ourselves that no longer serve us. We also were able to name what is truly important to us and therefore able to appreciate that in one another even more.
Thank goodness that he proposed the way that he did! He captured the true essence and spirit of our relationship wonderfully and in a way that was beautifully authentic. Had my detailed fantasy expectation been played out, we would have missed out on the authentic little moments that represent our relationship. My expectation was unrealistic and not truly aligned with who I am becoming or who I want to be in my relationship.
Key Learning: More often than not, our expectations are unrealistic and while they point to our hopes and dreams, when we attach to them or require them to become reality, then they will turn on us and keep us contracted and small. How then do we balance dreams and fears? How do we decipher that which is really important and that which we should insist on, from those things we can let go of for the sake of our learning?
LOOK FOR UNDERLYING CORE VALUES
The answer lies in identifying our core values. Ultimately, high expectations are a sign that we long for something; that we have vision, hopes and dreams or that something is very important to us. If we are really contracted around our expectations, then they are a signal that something important to us is being overlooked or stepped over. Attachment to expectation can inform us of our core values if we allow ourselves to look beneath the surface. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you catch yourself in the grips of high expectations:
1. What is truly important about this to me?
2. What am I looking for the final outcome to provide me with?
3. What value(s) of mine if any are being stepped on here?
4. What values or parts of myself do I need to honor?
By getting clear on what you're actually after at the end of the day, it will help you open up to accept it in various forms. You can then begin to see it everywhere - beyond just in the way or place that you thought it would be. This is the Universe's magic. When we let go of what we want the most, then the Universe showers us with the very thing we wanted in the first place.
WHAT WE RESIST PERSISTS: HOLD ONTO ESSENCE, LET GO OF FORM
It is our great lesson as a people to remember our true nature and to evolve based on what is in front of us at this present moment. On the path of personal development and spiritual awakening, we are being called to dance in THIS very moment and to see everything as an opportunity for transcendence and evolution. When we hang on tight to our expectations then we miss the opportunity for dynamic change and growth. Resisting this change creates frustration, anger, resentment, self pity, stress and illness as what we resist only persists. There is a difference between envisioning our dreams and clinging to what we think it is supposed to look like. One is open, free, full of possibility and the other is closed, particular and insistent.
Therefore, we must learn to let go of WHAT we think it should look and instead, remain connected to how we intend the experience to FEEL. This is about letting go of the form something takes and choosing instead to connect to the essence of it; the underlying intention. In the example of my engagement, after fumbling around in the land of expectation for a short while, I was able to let go of the physical details I expected and instead appreciate the underlying effort, love and joy being expressed to me. That allowed me to relish in the entire experience and recognize the enormity of blessings in my life that I was being invited to receive. It didn't matter anymore what form it took, where we went, what we did, etc. because everything was a reflection of effort, love and joy. Feel the difference?
Begin practicing finding the underlying essence in your daily life. Let go of what you think it should look like (the form) and instead choose to recognize the essence of what is before you. Is the person in front of you expressing love even if they say it differently than you would? Are you experiencing fulfillment in your work even though this job is different than what you thought would make you happy? Does your body feel relaxed and peaceful despite the situation being different than what you thought would bring you peace? Start to tune in.
BECOMING OPEN & ACCEPTING THE FED-EX PACKAGE
By letting go of expectation we become OPEN. The funny thing is that we flatter ourselves thinking that our imagination is going to yield the best possible dream. How foolish! The Universe gives us blessings that are WAY more amazing than what we could ever imagine. This doesn't mean to stop dreaming or to not live intentionally. The opposite. This means live on purpose. Get super clear on what is most important to you, stick to that and let go of the rest. Let go of what it is supposed to look like.
I joke with my girlfriends that my Beloved showed up in a package that I didn't expect. His age, features, job, etc. were different than the image of my life parter that I always expected in my mind. For a long time, I innocently overlooked that fact that he was the one for me. It was like the Universe was handing me a golden Fed-Ex package and I kept insisting that they delivered to the wrong address. The more time we spent together during our courtship however, the more I could FEEL in my body and soul that I was at home with him. When I let go of how I thought it should be and instead allowed the joy of what was actually happening in the present moment, then it was like a light bulb went off and we recognized each other as soul mates.
The truth is that we cannot control what anything will be like. All we can do is set intention and do the important inner work to become very clear on our values and priorities. We can choose to act in alignment with our values and express our authentic truth. The rest is for us to release into the wind. The rest is for us to co-create with the Universe, like two teammates who create life together. We do our part and then we hand the rest over to a force larger than ourselves to provide the greatest lessons, blessings and opportunities for self actualization, connection and awakening.
I invite you to identify and release one expectation that you're currently attaching to that you know is holding you back. Get clear on the values and priorities that lie underneath it and then set it and yourself free. By doing so you'll be proving to yourself just how much you trust yourself and life in general; and you'll be opening to receive life's true gifts.
Happy releasing! Please share your comments below - I'd love to hear what opens up for you around this!