“You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you. ” - Lisa Kleypas, Love in the Afternoon
In two days I am about to embark on a whole new chapter/journey in my life. My husband and I are moving to San Francisco! A city where neither of us has ever lived. Looking forward to a new adventure is very exciting with hints of nerves and wonder. As our moving date approaches, I have been thinking more and more about what to expect. Then the little yogi inside me reminds me of how expectations have this tendency to distract a person from enjoying everything around them to the maximum level of possible enjoyment. And who wants that, really?! Seriously though, expectations can be quite damaging to yourself and to those around you. I have been taught this lesson and reminded of it on numerous occasions in my recent years. Yet, somehow I still allow myself to drift back into that old habit of creating expectations. I want to embark on this new chapter with an open heart, fresh eyes and NO expectations. So, I thought, what better way to remind myself than to write it down.
Throughout the last 10 years that I have been studying yoga, I have read and heard from numerous teachers that having fewer expectations for yourself and others creates less opportunity for you to be dissapointed. This is really something to ponder isn’t it? Most of us are taught, our whole lives, to create goals and try to achieve as much as possible. To do well in all of our endeavours. Then we’re told that having expectations is negative? What to make of this…
I am reminded of my first solo travelling adventure. In 2009 I went to India for a yoga teacher training program. Of course, leading up to this trip, I created thousands of expectations in my mind. What I would see and do. Who I would meet. What I would learn. I actually imagined, coming out of the training, knowing everything there is to know about yoga. Ha! Now, five years later, I still feel like I’ve barely acquired a fraction of the knowledge available in this incredibly vast study. The entire (actual) experience was nothing like what I had imagined. The country alone is a hard pill to swallow. It’s hot, dirty, overwhelming and intoxicating all at the same time. If I had arrived there with no expectations, I feel like I would have had my eyes wide open and ready to drink in all there was to see and experience with a fresh open mind, instead of spending time comparing expectations with the reality. This is not to say that I did not enjoy my trip to India. On the contrary. It was Incredible! Luckily I had six weeks there to adjust and eventually release myself from those expectations (a valuable lesson I learned during the training). Once I threw them into the wind, I was able to just take it for what it was, breathe, smile, relax and soak it all in. In fact, by the end of the trip I had opened myself up to head in a completely different direction than I had originally expected. Which I’m convinced to this day was a much better path! I let go of the reins and allowed life to lead me, instead of struggling for control.
When you have huge expectations for yourself regarding your career, material possessions, achievements etc., it’s easy to fall into feelings of depression or guilt if those expectations aren’t met. The same goes for what you expect of those around you. We often want our loved ones or friends to be or act a certain way or live their lives in a certain manner. When they don’t, we feel frustrated with them which places a huge strain on those relationships. This could easily be avoided by accepting yourself and others just as you/they are. Simply loving people for all their faults and flaws and celebrating their positive attributes.
Having no expectations does not mean having no control. You can still have goals and a general direction you are heading without causing yourself undue stress. In fact, I think goal setting can be a really positive experience. The trick is to take control of what you can and release yourself from worrying about what you can’t. There are many aspects of life in which you have total control. Your attitude, your openness and your day to day activities are all things you can control. The weather, other peoples decisions and the outcome of every situation are things you can’t control. Release yourself from creating expectations around those things you can’t control and I guarantee you will open yourself up to the ability to enjoy life on a whole new level. This is something I have to remind myself of as well. So, I am committing myself to enter into this new journey without expectations, because when you let those go, the most wonderful things can happen.