“Expectations are the root of all heartache.”
In the past few months, I have been thinking about the risk that comes with having and holding expectations. Expectations refer to the beliefs that you hold for the outcomes of events or of other people. Our expectations can lead to major disappointment when reality does not match up to what we had hoped someone would do or how a situation will unfold.
Some of the common signs that you might hold expectations include anticipating a certain outcome, holding a vision in your mind of how things will play out, or having a set idea of what you want or need from another person. When expectations are not met, it can lead to feelings of disappointment, frustration, and anger. We need to be careful not to become so attached to our expectations.
Due to our social conditioning, most of us expect to have achieved certain milestones in life by a certain age. We expect to be married, have a family, climb the career ladder, or reach the top in a specific way within a set amount of time. When reality doesn’t live up to that road map, we suffer. We blame our circumstances, ourselves, and other people for our disappointment.
The truth is that life doesn’t owe you anything—so maybe we can reduce our suffering when we stop expecting it to play out a certain way. Maybe we can find more ease, and less resistance, in allowing and accepting what comes our way. Maybe when we can stop having expectations, we will stop being disappointed?
Let’s consider our relationships and the expectations we hold of other people. We expect other people to be kind, respectful, and trustworthy, but that is not always the case, is it? Have you ever thought about the fact that many of our relationships with other people are transactional in nature? Transactional relationships tend to include a focus on the other person’s contributions to the relationship. There may be a sense of keeping score, with both people concerned about “getting” rather than simply “giving.”
Expectations may be clearly defined, or they may be unspoken and simply assumed by one or both parties, but they are more often than not based on contributions of one or more parties. There is an expectation of reciprocity and needs where both parties expect to receive something in return for their investment, whether they are conscious of that or not.
Think about your relationships for a moment. Are they based on self-benefits? Do you focus on what you are getting out of it? Is there an unspoken commitment of equal giving and getting?
Now think of a time when a relationship of yours has fallen apart. Did one of the people in that relationship fail to keep their end of the deal? Did one of you feel let down and disappointed in the other? We all enter into these transactional relationships based on expectations without doing so consciously, and we have all suffered when those “contracts” are broken. What if we created relationships based on authentic connection versus having them be transactional and based on expectations? What would happen if the emphasis in our relationships was placed on love, trust, care, and connection?
I wonder if the key to improving our relationships is to enter them more consciously, being mindful of the other person’s needs and feelings, and committing to giving without expecting anything in return. In doing so, we would allow ourselves to learn new things, grow, and truly connect with one another without expectation or perceived outcomes.
When we can practice living our lives free from expectations, we begin to be more fully in the present moment. We turn our attention inward, instead of focusing on all the external circumstances and judgments. Our lives become focused on acceptance, gratitude, and love. We stop fighting things that are out of our control and focus our power on what we can control: our own mindset, emotions, and actions. Learning how to be happy without expectations means realizing that fulfillment comes from within.
High Vibes + Grateful Heart! XO, Jenn