Let’s be real, we all have them. Whether they’re of ourselves or others, they are present in most of our daily lives. Sometimes we refer to them as hopes or dreams. We want/expect them to happen and when they don’t, we tend to be disappointed. So how do we acknowledge them; become aware of the fact that we’re creating them; and understand why we’re creating them and, in turn, creating unnecessary pressure on ourselves or creating tension in relationships with others? How do we learn to live without unrealistic expectations and become ok with the fact that sometimes our dreams aren’t going to pan out exactly how we thought and not be disappointed? Some days I crush my expectations. Some days I choke on the spoonful of PB I’m snacking on. Such is life. Lol
It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much pressure I was putting on myself. I HAD to figure out the next step in my career. I HAD to own my own home in the next two years. I HAD to find my soulmate. I HAD to decide if I would have more kids. I HAD to recover from my injury faster. WHY?? I mean, don’t get me wrong, you should have goals. I don’t want anyone to get confused here. Goals keep you focused and get you out of bed in the morning, but they’re very different from expectations. Goals are what you intend to accomplish and are adjustable. Expectations are the perception that you should achieve something within a certain time frame and in a certain way. But back to WHY? When I thought about it, I actually didn’t have an answer, so I called my Dad who raised 3 extremely independent and driven females. I said, “I don’t know the why behind all of these things and why I need to have them at certain times.” He said, “Me neither, it sounds like a lot of unnecessary pressure.” That was the day I began to let them go. Does that mean I don’t want to grow? No. Buy a home? No. Fall in love? No. But I’Il need to trust that it will all happen, what is meant for me will come when it’s supposed to.
So, WHERE does this pressure come from? Society and expectations often go hand in hand. In fact, in this poll on my Instagram, more than half of you said the expectations you have of yourself are due to societal pressure. Let’s be real; if you were born in the ‘80s, ‘90s, or earlier, you were likely raised to believe you had to go to college right after high school, get a job right away, be married by your mid-to-late 20s, and then buy a home and have babies by your 30s. And if you didn’t, you failed. I totally succumbed to those pressures and ended up with debt I worked my ass off to pay off, a career I didn’t love, and a failed marriage. Only by throwing all of those things out the window did I become happy, and then I almost fell in to it all again. I look around at my friends and see most of the same. Failed marriages, broken families, jobs they hate going to every day, and even some foreclosed homes. All of this stress, for what? Because someone said this was the right way, the right path? Maybe it was for them, but you are not them. What if you followed your heart? What if you did what actually fulfilled you, not what was pushed on you?
We have to stop. Stop doing it to ourselves and each other. I mean when I read that timeline above, I can’t help but think, so if I were to have kids, get married, buy a home and finish a college degree all by 30 when did or will I live? When will I travel the world, stay out too late, spontaneously book a weekend trip, enjoy a day completely unplanned with zero expectation, build relationships with zero expectation? Even while in the grind pursuing what you want, you should be wearing a shit eating grin 80 percent of the time. I’ve had some of the best days of my life, met some of my forever friends, and made some of my best memories through unplanned circumstances. The truth is, the unknown is scary and that’s why so many of us take the suggested path. Being in control and knowing what is going to happen next is definitely more appealing to most, but if the path comes with a boat load of stress is that our true path? One has to wonder, why would your truth make you anything less than happy.
I have a better idea.
What if you were to just let go today? Loosen the reigns a little? Choose to just be happy right where you are, with who you are in this given moment? To be content for just a bit? To go with the flow, just see what happens, and not think so much about tomorrow or 5, 10, 20 years from now? Ask yourself if you’re doing things because someone else says you should, or because you feel as though it’s the right thing for you. I can’t help but wonder how much more successful and happy our society would be if we just encouraged each other to align with our passions and do things from the heart. Love who you want to love, live how you want to live, no judgement, no timelines, no push and no resistance.
So, I’m going to do it. All of it, right now and I’m just going to see what happens. Shortly after beginning to open myself up to this concept, I officially enrolled in my next training. Yes, it aligns with my career, but also excites me and will grow me as an individual. I said yes to a last-minute trip to Chicago for Lollapalooza. I said yes to a service trip to Africa to help open a school for kids less fortunate than I was growing up, to a training in India, and a retreat in Bali. I’m going to enjoy my extremely convenient apartment, excel at a job that I love, and spend more time loving myself rather than looking for someone else to do it. I’m going to do what I “want” to do this year rather than what I think I “should” and see what comes of it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? I end up stress free for a bit. It doesn’t mean I won’t continue to show up for myself, my friends, my job and my goals one hundred percent, but I’m just going to show up without expectation of the people I’m around and the situations I encounter. Try it! And if you’re still not ready to let go, I’ll get back to you about how it goes for me.
Next up – a discussion of our expectations of others, but until then, here are some helpful tips to lower your expectations for yourself:
1. Write down your current expectations
2. Ask yourself if they are unrealistic for today or even necessary? If so let them go for now or maybe for good.
3. Create a process to achieve the ones that are goals and remember the difference between a goal and an expectation is goals are adjustable.
4. Embrace where you are right now
“My Expectations were reduced to zero at 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”
- Stephen Hawking
“Expectation is the root of all heartache”
- William Shakespeare