For most of my life, or up until a few months ago to be more specific, my actions were subconsciously driven by expectations. Relationships, work, etc., I would bend backwards to fit into whichever mold I thought would trigger the casino slot machine “Ding, Ding, Ding!” sound effect. This was so exhausting. For example, I would frequently find myself overanalyzing what I should say or beat myself afterwards whether what I said was supposed to be said and just as importantly whether it was said correctly. Whew … see what I mean; it’s exhausting just to read that sentence. Oh and by the way, this thought pattern made a HUGE assumption that I can read people’s minds.
So where did this come from? I believe that much of it comes from the way our world is structured. We get ribbons for high GPA, pay raises for results and likes for great looking Facebook photos.
Now there is nothing wrong with expectations per se. After all, it is one of the first steps in any planning effort; if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?
The problem with expectations lies in their static nature. See, expectations are made based on snapshots in time such as knowledge, experience, resources and most importantly mindset. Therefore, if you’re not careful, you might find yourself just like Hans Christian Andersen’s ugly duckling ashamed of the very features that turned it into a beautiful swan.
One way to transcend this potential blind spot is to let go of expectation attachment and focus on being yourself in all that you do. Instead of twisting yourself into every imaginable version of the pretzel pose to fit into any given situation based on likely long time expired expectation, become a beacon that attracts the right people and spots the right opportunities whenever they present themselves in your life.
No doubt, this mind shift takes a lot of faith and practice. I’m speaking from personal experience here. In my case, I’ve been feeling unfulfilled. Rather than perpetually trying to earn my way into fulfillment, based on expectations I created so long ago that I don’t even remember where they came from, I decided to simply give myself permission to feel fulfilled without any concrete checklist to justify the feeling to myself. This illogical approach opened to me a whole slew of opportunities and encounters that, while seemingly ordinary, feed my curiosity and reinforce a sense of fulfillment.
For example, because I am not burdened by the expectation to be always right, I am more open to learning a lesson from someone I vehemently disagree with. Or, because I don’t feel the pressure of my old expectation to be liked, I ask questions that the old me thought would damage the relationship (funny thing is, so far in every instance, being real and vulnerable has actually strengthened my relationships). Finally, because I don’t expect myself to be perfect, I am able to step back and see how my actions might have contributed to the “unfair” outcome.
So examine your expectations and particularly for those you just can’t seem to meet … Who and where were you when you created them? Are they still compatible with who you want to be today?