Expectations. Yikers. The mere mention of the word has the needle on my perfection-meter bouncing all over the place.
What is an expectation anyway? An expectation is the idea that we hold ourselves or others to an experience or achievement that we believe will, without a doubt, happen in the future. And assumptions are as attached to expectations as ice cream is to the hips. We make the assumption that because of ABC, well . . . DEF surely must follow . . . and so it will merrily go until XYZ gives us a cute curtsy at the final curtain call and we can all go home.
There is a certain, oftentimes hidden, agenda of chronological events — an order within our expectations. We presume, suppose, and calculate a trajectory and then hope like hell that everyone involved will do their part in living up to this probability. And once an expectation is realized? We bow and receive a rousing encore; we have achieved as we predicted. On to conquering the next expectation.
But is this really how life works? Well, sometimes it actually does. And sometimes not. Yes, we can plan and hope and dream and take action. We can put ourselves out there and exercise discipline and ally ourselves with the right team and work like hell and, in the end, realize our expected outcome.
But there are those times when things go all cray-cray and nothing, and I mean nothing, goes as planned. We learn that, in spite of our colossal efforts, life decides to take a different turn. There are flat tires and our GPS stops working. We experience break downs and rely on either tow trucks or on our thumb and a cardboard sign to get to the next town. We ultimately end up in Topeka when we were heading for Boston. The thing about missing out on something we didn’t get the chance to experience is that we are oftentimes left feeling cheated. There is that feeling of “less than” because our ultimate and presupposed destination wasn’t reached. In essence, we beat ourselves up and think on how much our lives would be better if we had only met that singular expectation.
That’s the thing about expectations, the ones that we place on others and that we place on ourselves . . . they suck. Things rarely, and I do mean rarely, happen exactly as we think they should. Sometimes we get a sweet serendipitous surprise in the process of wrong turns and dead-end alleys, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes there is no surprise at all. Life just keeps humming along in an air stream of “ordinary” . . . which, when you think on it, is the ultimate surprise of all.
And the thing about surprises? We say that we like them, even welcome them, but we need to be honest with ourselves: Isn’t this only true when they are the kind of surprises that delight us, fulfill an expectation, thus making us happy? What about those surprises that aren’t so fun? The un-fun variety of surprise leads us to throw up our hands. Out the window goes our road map. It’s time to turn off our phone’s maps app.
There is no predictable route to the unexpected. Never ever. The best we can do is to simply strap on our crash helmet, hang on for the ride, and intuit should it come time to bail. These are the times when I most need to take a deep breath, to think, to clear my mind, and to reset my GPS.
How do you clear your mind and reset your GPS? I encourage you to take just a few minutes and think about the benefits of putting your expectations to rest and letting your mind do some free form creative visualizing. Just close your eyes, let your mind wander, and follow some satisfying, happy thoughts.
- What is one of your ultimate dreams in life?
- How does it feel to be realizing this dream?
- Follow your dream. See where it leads.
- Take a moment to write in your journal about what you have visualized.
- Pick up the thread tomorrow.
Journal for a few days, a week, or longer. To where do your thoughts lead you? If you’re not inclined to write in a journal, just keep visualizing and dreaming. The important thing is to allow your expectations of “how” to be put on pause and your mind to roam. Follow your dreams. They know where they are going. No GPS required.