Expectations are a two-way street.
Expectations are the root of suffering. Without them, there would be no story to compare the present circumstance to, no other way it should have gone, and no ideal version of what could be happening if things were different.
Expectations invite more suffering by perpetuating narratives of what’s changed and what didn’t occur, taking us further away from accepting what is. And further away you move from acceptable, the further from the present moment you become.
It’s natural to create expectations for ourselves and hold them for others. Expecting life to unfold in a particular way, people to behave accordingly, or treat you in a certain way because that’s what you would do, or how you’ve always received something. It happens, humans are creatures of habit which ultimately leads to assumptions.
The thing is, people are constantly seeing life through their own unique lens, one which is cultivated by different memories, experiences, and beliefs. Two people can be looking at the same exact scenario while seeing things from completely different perspectives because of the hue of their lens.
One can see problems where another sees opportunities. Expectations are no different; where you expect something to happen you can also invite a fresh perspective to welcome change.
Inviting Suffering Unknowingly
There is a connection between what is causing you suffering right now and an expectation that has been placed upon someone or something. When something happens, someone hurts you, something didn’t go right, chances are there’s an expectation that things “should” have gone differently, better, a particular way you’d imagined in your mind.
The deeper you dig into the narrative of what should have happened, the further away you pull from alignment and the present moment. If you’re constantly focusing on circumstances of the past that can’t be changed, on people and places that can’t be controlled, or stories the mind creates, you’re wasting precious energy.
But by choosing to recognize the expectations you’re holding onto, the ones that hold you back from being with changes unfolding now, you’re moving with the current flow of energy. Instead of focusing on what could have been, you’re standing in what already is, and that’s the place decisions are made.
Dropping expectations isn’t easy, but it is possible once you begin to notice where they have a hold on you. If you’re gripping onto a story rather than reality, focusing on opinions rather than facts, clinging onto the way you believe things need to go rather than accepting the way things are, you’re going against the ebb and flow of life.
When you find yourself holding onto what isn’t and pushing away what is, it’s time to drop expectations because they’re not serving you.
Learning to Be Okay With Change
The only constant you can count on is change. Change from within, change all around, change from the people in your lives. Time is always moving forward and although you don’t have to accept that truth, it doesn’t stop it from being true.
Just because you grip tightly to what once was doesn’t mean it still is, it simply means you haven’t moved into the present moment and have decided to hold onto past expectations. That’s what it means to live a life of resistance.
Deciding to be okay with change doesn’t necessarily mean you’re comfortable with it, or even that the change is something you’ve wanted. Being okay with change is less about your opinion of it and more about acknowledging reality as it shows up. Whether you choose to respond with resistance or acceptance change is inevitable, but the prolonged suffering that accompanies that change is entirely up to you.
There are plenty of opportunities that come up in your life to drop expectations. You’ll begin to notice them once you recognize all of the expectations already set in motions, the ones you hold for yourself, others, and life in general. Some expectations get so deeply embedded that it becomes something you identify it, that’s where the challenges come in.
It’s simple, but not easy. It’s possible but difficult. You’re either rooted in what’s expected or moving toward alignment, and you can always choose again.
How to Notice Change and Expectations
To sum up, there are two states of mind this blog focuses on: autopilot and mindfulness. The difference between the two is clear: mindfulness is to bring your presence to something, to pay attention, whereas autopilot is not paying attention or tuning out.
Autopilot isn’t a negative state of mind, but it is one that doesn’t require awareness. Without awareness there’s a lack of presence freeing up your thoughts and energy to be floating elsewhere. If you’re not bringing intention to what you’re doing, there’s a chance you’re just going through the motions.
To practice mindfulness is to bring awareness to those motions, those choices, those habits and day-to-day tasks. It’s not about doing anything differently, quicker or slower, but doing it with a sense of presence and awareness. Noticing what you’re doing and paying attention to how it’s done. This is the practice that will lead you to recognize expectations.
You can learn to be with discomforts rather than push them away.
You can learn to be where you are instead of the story in the thinking mind that should have unfolded.
You can learn to be okay with change instead of putting up a fight of resistance at every turn.
You can learn to recognize when expectations have their claws deep in your beliefs, so you can practice mindfulness, turn off the autopilot, and make deliberate choices that bring you closer to acceptance.
Being okay with change really means being with the change, rather than being with the thoughts of what “would have been” easier, simpler, better, etc. To be okay with change is to be with what is, to be with what is present in your life.
The more you practice noticing your automatic habits, choices, and movements throughout the day, the more opportunities to practice mindfulness will surface. It’s in these moments of mundane everyday instinctual choices that you can invite intention and a fresh pair of eyes.
The difference between autopilot and mindfulness is your presence, a shift that happens in an instant, a choice that’s always within you. May you have the courage to make that choice today and may it bring you closer to a more peaceful version of yourself.