Expectations are assumptions, desired results and attachments to what is going to happen in the future.
When we form expectations, especially in relationships, we are dooming ourselves to disappointment.
The key is what happens when we don’t get what we want. If we are attached to the outcome, we will suffer if we don’t get it. Then our egos will analyze what went “wrong” and attach blame either to ourselves, or to someone else for interfering. We can believe (when we don’t get what we want) that something went wrong or something went right. The difference depends on how badly we want our expectations.
“Expectation” is another word for “desired outcome.” The Buddhists believe that desire is one of the causes of human suffering, and I tend to agree with that.
A few years ago, I invested a great deal of money in businesses owned by a person I trusted. That person then abandoned the businesses, and I lost all of my money.
I “expected” that I would make a profit; I “expected” that the person would protect my investment. For a time, I suffered greatly and beat myself up for my decision to trust the man I thought was a spiritual guru and told me he was chosen by God to make me rich. I blamed him. I blamed myself. I was paralyzed with fear, because I had lost my retirement and was going to have to go back to work.
As I look back at that time, I realize that it was not the loss of my savings that made me suffer; it was the loss of my expectations that caused me the greatest pain.
The same thing happens in relationships.
I was recently in a relationship that was pretty much one-sided, but my lust and pride expected that she would love me as I loved her and everything would turn out like the stories do in fairy tales. However, once again my expectations were not met. She went out with other men, and I became broken-hearted.
It wasn’t losing her that I minded so much; it was the loss of the desired outcome that made me hurt. It was the loss of a dream of the future that hurt. So I had a lot to learn.
We all do this in some form or another when we fantasize about how our future is going to be. When we fantasize that we will be rich and famous, we assign roles to people and form expectations on how our life is going to connect the dots to this desired outcome. On the flip side, when we fear the future, we assign roles to people and form expectations on how our life is going to be a failure.
The truth is, neither one of these scenarios happens. Life is never as good or as bad as we fantasize.
I think everyone buys a lottery ticket at some point in their life and plans how to spend the millions of dollars they are going to win before the drawing. Then, when they don’t win, they experience disappointment.
What a mind fart.
To live a life without pain and disappointment, we have to quit expecting results. We have to focus on the journey—not the prize at the end.
When we do things for people, we have to do it without expectation of reward. When we do a good job, we should do it without expectation of a raise or promotion. We do it for the satisfaction of doing a good job, then we cannot be disappointed. When we invest in something, we need to be open to whatever happens and do the best we can to make a safe investment.
Risk has its own reward, and it usually isn’t what we want.
When we go into relationships, we must do so to be with that person no matter what they do. We shouldn’t expect them to do something or act in a certain way. Then we won’t be disappointed when they are themselves; that way, they don’t have to live up to our expectations, and there is no pressure.
When I learned this lesson, I began to understand that the loss of my savings was no big deal. In fact, it motivated me to focus on expanding my teaching and healing practice and ultimately be a more conscious being.
If I had not lost all of my money, I would not be sitting here writing this article today. That is pretty cool in my book.
I am expanding my healing practice and helping more people (caveat: don’t expect your clients to heal). Best of all, I have discovered that when I have no expectations, everything becomes an adventure. When there are no expectations, there are no failures. When there are no expectations, there are no losers.
When there are no expectations, there is no stress; there is only the experience of living.
When there are no expectations, there is no fear of the future. And when there is no fear of the future, there is only peace. I will trade expectations for peace any day.
Author: James Robinson
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Ryan McGuire/Gratisography