Whenever I travel, there is usually one topic which hits me square between the eyes and compels me to write about it. On a recent trip to Dubrovnik, it was all about expectations. How having them has been a constant yet often unconscious source of angst for me. And, as I have started to discover, how letting go of them can be a source of peace and joy. Also, I will share why I am consciously choosing not to have any expectations as I get ready to launch my first book.
Expectations: A source of suffering
It took a near breakdown in my relationship with my brother just as I was moving house earlier this year to finally get the message. The expectations I had were causing me to suffer. I finally realised how much I had been attaching myself to certain outcomes – across many areas of my life. In my close relationships, in my work and in society generally. I was often expecting people to act a certain way. A way which I perceived as being ‘right’. My Ego Self had been running the show in this regard.
Expectations are a form of attempted control about a point in the future. When we have expectations, it can feel very uncomfortable and even anger-inducing when they aren’t met. It can take us out of the present moment, the ‘what is’ of the now. We can then become so consumed by blaming, correcting, challenging that we disconnect from our heart and from our centre.
I believe we saw evidence of this in this year’s Wimbledon Ladies Singles Final. One player was a clear favourite, predicted to win on paper, but carrying the weight of expectation of her home nation of Tunisia and perhaps even the whole continent of Africa. And one, nobody had expected to be in the final who was free from any such weights or hopes. As the match unfolded it was clear to see who was fully connected with their talent, who was able to play with freedom and joy. It was written all over the face of another that she was expected to win. And it took her out of the present moment where her true power and her potential to become Wimbledon champion lied.
Watching this reminded me of a great quote from a Chinese philosopher called Chuang Tzu. It’s in relation to an archer who is very skilled but also very burdened by the desire to win and take the prize. So much so that this desire takes him away from being in the moment to the point where his performance suffers. “He thinks more of winning than of shooting. And the need to win drains him of power.”
In what way might your desire or expectation for a future outcome be draining you of power?
Expectations: What’s the alternative?
I flew out to Dubrovnik on the day of the Men’s Singles Final. As a huge tennis fan, this was a big deal. I never miss a final. But this time, I consciously chose to let go of any expectation to watch it once we arrived. After flicking through the TV channels to no avail, I decided to let go and to be fully present in the beautiful place where I had just landed. It felt strangely liberating.
And then something magical happened. As I walked into the local town for dinner, searching for a particular restaurant, I turned the corner at the bottom of some stairs and what was straight in front of me but an outdoor bar with a giant screen which was showing the final. And there was a table right in front of it where I could watch the last set with a nice cold drink. The joy I felt in that moment is hard to describe. It felt like pure serendipity. In letting go of my expectation, the thing I wanted happened anyway. (The trick is now to make sure that I don’t have an expectation that this might happen again as a result of letting go!)
Here are a few suggestions to try as an alternative to having expectations:
- Firstly, become aware of when you have expectations about a person or a certain thing happening. Call it out.
- And then, consciously release that expectation – imagine it floating off.
- Fully enter the present moment.
- Connect with your Higher Self so that you can enter more of a flow state. Your Higher Self is that part of you which is more flexible, more present, more accepting and more trusting that whatever the outcome, you can handle it.
- You might also find it helpful to swap the word ‘expectation’ for ‘intention’. An intention is naturally less rigid, more fluid. You might set an intention or visualise a particular outcome, but you then let go and you detach yourself from it.
Expectations and my book
I feel like the Universe has presented me with a valuable less in these months leading up to my book launch in September. And so, I am choosing to let go of any expectations about it and how well it might sell. On the day of launch, I will be getting out into nature and symbolically releasing my book into the Universe for it to do its own thing – whatever that is. And trusting in the higher plan for it and what happens next.
For someone who used to manage products and sales forecasts for a living, I will admit that there is an element of this which does feel a little counter-intuitive and I have been fighting the urge to create a spreadsheet. But I also know it will have some benefits for me:
I will feel more at peace and in the moment as my book writing journey unfolds.
I won’t be judging its success or my own worth based on how many copies I sell.
I will be more likely to stay in the state of joy I have been in from just writing and publishing it and achieving my long-held ambition.
I will be opening up to the higher plan for my book instead of limiting it to what I think is possible.
Don’t get me wrong, I will still be celebrating every sale which might come in and showing deep gratitude for every person willing to part with their cash to read my story. But I won’t be crying into my morning americano if I haven’t managed to clock up enough sales to jet me off on my next holiday within the first month of release.
A few questions to leave you with...
I hope this meander into the topic of expectations has triggered something in you. I want to leave you now with a few questions to reflect on:
What expectations have been weighing you down?
What can you now choose to let go of?
What difference might that make to you and your life?
Hello, I'm Rebecca
Career Coach for people on a spiritual path
I support mid-career professionals who are ready to make a career change, launch into a more purpose-led career or business or simply enjoy a more fulfilling or balanced working life.
I believe that we all have a purpose here on earth and that life is too short to be stressed, unfulfilled and playing small.