Having expectations: good or bad?Nov 30, 2023
Yoga and Spirituality says to let go of expectations; that they kill happiness and create suffering.
In sharing by thoughts about this, I find it necessary to distinguish between expectations, goals, and attachments. Here goes...
We need expectations. They anchor us. They help us navigate the world better because we can expect certain things. (1) Billiard players can expect results from the use and application of geometry. The more they practice, the less random the results. It allows them to work on their game knowing those rules will get them to their goals. (2) Sales people understand that the more you ask the more you’ll get. With no other factors considered, it’s a numbers game, and you can expect to get some yeses with more calls. (3) All of us, we expect for Gravity to obey its own law. We never wake up concerned that it won’t. This is a big deal when you think about it.
I am not a pool player, though I do enjoy the game. I’m totally unable to apply the geometry, and I’m not committed to it. So when I do pick up the cue stick once every blue moon, I do my best with the teensy bit of understanding that I have, and I go for it without taking too much extra time, because for me, it’s a crap shoot anyway (I’m just not committed to it). If I had any other expectations beyond enjoying the company I’m with, it would be disappointing for me. That said, I can get competitive, even in arenas that aren’t in my wheelhouse, so then I expect to have fun getting competitive and faking mad.
I can take this metaphor into every other aspect of my life. For instance, I noticed that when I fake something, others fake back… none of us fully realizing the fake when it happens. Hindsight can sometimes be 20/20. When I half apply myself, I get half the results: people like it but aren’t loving it. When I apply myself fully, I get full results: people love it or they hate it. When I act fine but am not, the other person acts fine but clearly is not. When I pretend I’m doing things but what I’m really doing is distracting myself with busy-ness, I wonder why I’m not getting the results.
There are Universal Laws, and I quite enjoy holding the Universe to them. I expect that I will get back what I put into it. The depth, presence, consideration, preparedness, desire, willingness, and the level of honesty and authenticity that I show up with is reflected back at me. When I look at my life experiences honestly, I can see that those laws hold true, and I’ve learned to use my experiences as feedback, notes from the Universe to make a few adjustments.
I like the idea of having the expectation that if I follow my core values, priorities, and desires, if I follow my meaning and purpose, I will experience Joy. These sorts of expectations can provide confidence to move forward, like the pool player, taking advantage of the laws that bind the Universe, or at least Earth.
They drive us. They give us direction. They come from our desire to be happy, do better, feel better, connect with purpose, make a difference, and experience life.
When we drop goals and “flow” without aim - you know the one: “I’ll see how I feel as things come up, and then I’ll decide” - that sort of “freedom” comes at a cost. There’s a misunderstanding that this is what letting go and trusting looks like.
I believe the first step in letting go and trusting is letting go of unreasonable expectations and trusting that somehow you will go right when you veer left. Mood and confusion aren’t as trustworthy as are Emotions and core values. The latter pair is a gift from the Universe to help you set goals, find direction, and put your unique gifts to good use. Without a sense of direction, we are more likely to wake up one day with a healthy dose of existential anxiety, or a big sigh, questioning purpose and meaning.
Goals are dynamic, living, breathing entities. They give you a sense of direction and help you make decisions. They give you a point of reference and experiences to hold up against that help you realize that sometimes your goal(s) may need revising or a completely new direction. Without this, it’s hard to know.
Our Google Maps has a clear goal (that we input) and is flexible. We plug in our destination, and when we make a wrong turn, it gives us a new route to get us back on track. When there’s a faster way, it lets us know. When there’s a delay, it lets us know. It gives us other potential routes. We can add stops along the way. We can change or cancel our destination at any point. Once we get there, we can put in another destination. But without putting in the “end point,” there is no direction to give us; not even any direction for us to ignore (which is valuable info).
JOY: While we can’t make Joy our direct goal, it is the ultimate goal. The stuff that get you there are made up of goals that align with your core values, desires, and priorities.
I disagree with those that say goals cause suffering. Honestly, I think that’s b.s. I think unrealistic expectations, lack of goals, and attachments do.
Attachments aren’t bad, per se. They challenge us and give us opportunity to grow. They cause just enough suffering to get our attention. They deliver opportunities to learn more about ourselves and make some decisions. We get to feel BIG FEELINGS around our attachments, decide what our deepest, truest values are, and let go of what’s no longer serving us. Our most difficult attachments are around our loved ones, our desire to be right, and our desire to stay “safe” (in the comfort zone).
This is our lesson zone. This is where meditation, contemplation, journaling, and coaching can be leveraged to accelerate growth.
Here’s the thing: you were meant to find Joy. The deeper kind of joy that holds you through even the most challenging times. Life can be hard. Irritations, losses, betrayals, and hardships happen, and despite them, when you have that deeper sense of Joy, you still know who you are, and you trust what you’re doing, even when you feel wobbly about it. You can make hard decisions even when it’s heartbreaking. You grieve the losses from those decisions but you make them because you know yourself. And because you know yourself, you understand others better. And this translates to: you are never alone.