There’s nothing more devastatingly destructive to a potentially happy human life than expectations.
Good or bad, they’re equally insidious.
Expectations imply a rigidity of mind — a steadfast attachment to a particular outcome. And if that outcome doesn’t arise, disappointment does.
Half of humanity is in a perpetual funk because of how things are “supposed to be“. But “supposed to be” is arguing with reality.
What is, is.
“Supposed to be” isn’t a thing. You’ve got the precious present moment exactly as it is, and a future that’s limitless in its potential. Two pretty fantastic options, yet we can destroy both of them with a relentless attention to “should bes”.
Humanity’s not so much into uncertainty. We have a hard time letting life bring us the unexpected (without a hefty helping of anxiety along with it), although that’s when we reap the greatest rewards.
Letting go of expectations doesn’t mean we have to ditch our hopes and dreams. Dreaming, visualizing and imagining the infinite possibilities available to us are hugely important parts of fulfilling our human potential. That’s putting out magnificent minds to work — milking their creative juices and fueling our enthusiasm for life.
But the key is to avoid attaching our delicate hopes to any particular star.
It’s when we become obsessed with one specific state of affairs that we paralyze our potential. Narrowing in on how we think things have to be slams the doors to all the alternatives.
Without expectations, we’re thrilled that our significant other brought flowers home unexpectedly, instead of pissed they haven’t proposed yet; we’re over the moon about our boss’ kudos for our recent project, instead of bummed that a co-worker got the promotion we wanted; we’re bubbling over with gratitude that we have a warm bed and a full stomach, instead of lamenting that the next door neighbors have a shiny new Mercedes.
In short: fewer expectations, more appreciation.
It’s not easy to let go of expectations when they’ve been programmed into us — beaten into our brains by TV, parents, well-intentioned relatives, college professors and every other cultural outlet we come in contact with. This is how things are SUPPOSED to be, they say. And when circumstances don’t shake out in the straight and narrow way we anticipate, we’re lost.
If we can open ourselves up to the possibilities instead of obsessing over any given scenario, we can be exponentially happier. Open minds are happy minds.
Next time expectations start getting in your way, pose this question: what if the universe has something unimaginably more awesome in store than anything I could ever imagine? The possibilities are bigger, bolder, boundlessly more impressive than we know.
Truth is, the universe, in its infinite wisdom, has it over our lame, predictable and entirely cliched expectations. Embrace the capriciousness of life. Be amenable to change and unpredictability and surprise. Face each moment with an untarnished optimism and an open mind and let those tired, dull expectations go the way of your tenth grade hairdo.