I can’t recall the amount of times someone has said that sentence to me nor the times I have said it to myself. Because, although we know that having expectations is one of the main sources of unhappiness, it’s difficult to keep them at bay.
Having said that, and discussing this with Laura from Sensiblement Pas, a coach specializing in highly sensitive people, she was telling me that ceasing to have expectations makes you free, because in the end, by expecting we remain subject to what the outside/ “life” owes us or should give us. Whereas, when we don’t expect, we stop clinging to that possibility and we free ourselves from those shackles in the shape of wishes that condition our development.
What’s more, she assured me that to expect implies living in the future, because we are depositing a series of hopes on the conditional, on what will be, on what could happen, forgetting the only thing we have, that is the present. And the direct consequence is that we don’t see what we have and subsequently, we don’t appreciate it, as our sights are set on that future that we imagine and wish for with all our might.
Everything changes. Everything is transformed.
Another aspect to continue in favour of not to expect is to be aware of the temporality of everything. We forget that everything ends, that everything changes, that nothing remains. And that is exactly what places us in the here and now. To be conscious that every moment is born and dies, and to expect the next only produces weariness and despair, given that we do not have any control over the majority of events, no matter how hard we try. Another of its effects is that it makes us waste time, because instead of being focused on what we have, we waste time looking to the expectation of what could potentially be happening or what could happen.
Hopes versus expectations.
Because it’s one thing to have hopes, a necessary ingredient to keep us motivated each morning, and another very different thing are expectations, that can apparently be disguised as hopes but that are not the same even if we lie to ourselves.
“Expectations remain fixed on a specific result and are anchored in the desire of a certain future. They are centred on the object and extract us from ourselves.”
And when we don’t obtain the desired result… Wham! Our hopes are dashed and we become frustrated, we are let down and suffer. Because basing our happiness on a specific result is the cause of that suffering. We hold on to it so strongly that when what we wished, expected, yearned for doesn’t happen… we feel bad. When, in truth, we should be more open to all possible results, because as I said before: we are not in control of most of our circumstances. Because this openness to the outcome is what will free us from the imprisonment of expectations. And in this way, we will learn to respond to what we have to face with a mature attitude, setting aside the idea that things should be a certain way.
“Hope resides in the potential of our response, not in things turning out in a specific way.”
Because, although we feel that we have lost control, the idea is to end up being aware that, no matter how much we want to, we cannot and will not be able to control life. We don’t have that superpower. However, what we can do is allow room for surprise and opportunities. Maybe what we wish for with all our might doesn’t happen, but other opportunities we had never imagined may arise and that we may like even more. Because with a closed, unmoving attitude we will be incapable of seeing them, but with a receptive attitude to the unexpected, we will be more connected to the present and to reality. Everything else are pipe-dreams.
“When we stop holding on to what was and yearning for what we think should be, we can accept the truth of this moment.”
Accept things as they are.
Hope accepts the truth that is nothing other than: No matter what we do, things will change because change is constant and inevitable.
That’s why, instead of allowing ourselves to be subjected by fear and our own judgement and to be squashed under expectations, continuously wanting a potentially better future, the healthiest thing to do is to shed those burdens, have more faith in ourselves and life, in the correct action and in perseverance, without haste.
It’s not about not expecting the best. It’s about accepting things, our life, others … as they are, without categorizing them into good or bad, but into what makes them manageable.
“Don’t expect is an appeal to totally submerging oneself in life. Don’t miss this moment because you want the next to arrive. Don’t wait to act when something is truly important. Don’t cling to the hope of a better past or future; live the present moment.” Frank Ostaseski
Beti-Jai: a beautiful historical fronton in the centre of the Chamberí district