Expectation is the root of all heartache – William Shakespeare
Synonyms – supposition, assumption, presumption, conjecture, surmise, calculation, prediction.
What stands out from this list to you? The first word my brain wraps around is “assumption.” To me, that word holds a negative connotation because I’ve been burned when I assume things. Yet we are taught both to have high expectations for outcomes or performances and then vice versa to lower our expectations when things don’t go as planned. What if you replaced the word “expectation” with “assumption” and then said, “oh I have high assumptions for this one, she is a star student!” That sounds ridiculous! Yet we expect (assume) things every single day.
Expectations are the breeding grounds for all disappointment. Maybe we meet with a prospective client thinking, this is an easy deal, presuming it will come together with no effort. Instead we come off too confident and it all crumbles. Disappointment. OR maybe we meet with a client thinking, this is a long shot, and bring our negative expectations and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Again, disappointment. Because despite expecting a poor outcome we had really hoped it would work out.
What if you went into every meeting, conversation, or experience with the attitude that what is meant to happen will? That regardless of the outcome, there is a reason you are at that place at that time? What if when things didn’t pan out as expected, you shifted your focus to what was gained? Did you learn a lesson? Were your expectations exceeded because you were open? Did you nearly miss becoming involved in something that was going to require all your energy?
A month ago, I took my significant other on a trip for his 40th birthday. We had plans to go on a hot air balloon ride. It’s something he’s always wanted to do and we were so excited to do it together. We watched the weather and the day looked perfect with very little wind. Our alarms went off before the sun came up and we were looking forward to our mountain view from high in the sky. When we got to the location after an hour drive, we were told even though it didn’t feel windy, there was an unpredictable wind higher in the sky and we couldn’t fly. My immediate thought was, that’s so disappointing, then I caught myself and shifted. What other adventure are we meant for today? So before 7:00 am, we found ourselves in Walmart (the only place open!) buying makeshift hiking gear so we could see the mountains up close and personal. It was the best day.
In the past I would’ve pouted all day about things not going as planned. But I’ve grown, and even before we left Minnesota I said to myself, I have no expectations for this trip because no matter what, we are together and celebrating the beginning of a new decade. We both knew before we booked a hot air balloon ride it was completely dependent on the PERFECT conditions. We knew the flight being cancelled was a possibility. And we didn’t assume that the balloon would go up just because we wanted it to. So when it didn’t, we were entirely open to the possibility that we had other amazing things to see that day. And we did.
When we manage expectations in a way that allows for openness, we are so much more fulfilled. I wake up every day and visualize where I want to be in three months, three years, thirty years. But I try not to expect that just because my focus and energy are there, things will go as I see fit. Instead I trust that if I am grateful, if I am intentional, and if I am present good things will come. And they may not be the things I expected. And that’s ok. They might be better! Or they might be what I need, or what someone else needs.
Like all things (for me!), limiting expectations takes practice. Of course we are naturally going to have them, but I set my sights on no expectations at all, knowing (TRUSTING) that there is a plan for me. Imagine the possibilities!