It’s important to have goals, dreams, and aspirations for our life to give us direction and purpose. However, if we constantly have expectations for people, places, and experiences, we are setting ourselves up to be miserable. The difference between goals, dreams, aspirations and expectations is that the former is our hope for what is possible, whereas expectations are demands for how we want to feel in specific situations. When we constantly have expectations for others and ourselves, we create a choke-hold over the situation. It demands when x happens I’ll feel y. This sets us up for disappointment in two ways: either we’ll get upset that x never happens, and therefore we’ll never feel y, or x will happen, and we still don’t feel y. These expectations can cripple us by causing anxiety over something we can never control. Therefore, if we instead live life without expectations, we let go of anxiety and the need for control. Then we can approach life more playfully, carefree, and with curiosity.
Here are some examples of how applying the principle of no expectations can actually help us in achieving our dreams, goals, and aspirations:
Letting go of the expectation for new people we meet to be our friend:
Say you are at a cocktail party, and usually hold onto the expectation for new people to like you or to be your new best friend. If you are holding onto this as an end goal for every interaction, either you’ll push people away by trying too hard, or you won’t talk to anyone at all, out of fear that you won’t be liked. However, if you approach this situation differently without expectations, you much more likely to have a better result. Without the expectation of a specific end result, we can enjoy talking to and meeting new people just for the sake of it. Since there is no longer any expectation for social interactions, it no longer matters if we connect with new people on the long term or not, the point of the interaction is in the moment. Without expectations, we can express ourselves more openly and freely, making it much more likely for the interaction to end in a friendship. Also, if the end result doesn’t matter, social anxiety dissolves, making the situation more comfortable. You’ll end up speaking to more people, thus making it more likely you will end up with a new friend.
Letting go of the expectation that all our ideas will be successful:
If you expect all your ideas to work perfectly and be successful, chances are you’ll disappoint yourself. If you let go of this expectation, this will dissolve potential disappointment. The fear of disappointment is one of the main reasons for inaction: when we are so afraid of failure, we often don’t even try. Without this expectation, we allow ourselves to simply create and try new things, regardless of whether they will be successful or not. By letting go of expectations and just opening up to the process, you are more likely to do and try more, and therefore more likely to succeed.
Letting go of expectations around new opportunities/jobs:
Chances are you’ve gone to a job interview before with the expectation that they’ll love you and give you the job. However, if you instead don’t have expectations for how something should go, you are more likely to be honest and instead focus on finding the right fit. For example, at your next job interview, rather than approaching it with the expectation “I will get a job”, approach it as “I am curious where this will take me”, and this will open up more pathways in conversations, make you appear more genuine, and will ultimately help you find a job where you are most aligned.
We are constantly victim to our expectations, which constantly sets us up for disappointment. To truly apply this philosophy of life without expectations, we have to approach new people/places/opportunities without expecting any sort of end result. Instead of holding onto one possibility, get excited that everything in life has multiple possibilities, some of which you can never anticipate or expect. In any situation you feel anxious about wanting a specific end result, ask yourself, “What would I do if the end result didn’t matter?”. This will open you up to just living freely in the moment, without expectations. And sometimes, the end result is better than any expectation you could have imagined.