Letting go of expectations is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. It allows you to be in the present moment and to be open to what is happening around you.
We all know that expectations can be a serious burden, but it’s hard to let go of them.
We cling to our expectations because we want things to go the way we planned, but life never goes according to plan. When things don’t turn out the way we expect them to, we’re left feeling disappointed, frustrated, and even resentful.
What to do about that, in short: The next time you find yourself feeling disappointed or frustrated because something didn’t go the way you expected it to, try to let go of your expectations. Accept that life is unpredictable and that’s okay. Be open to whatever comes your way, and you may just find that you’re pleasantly surprised.
What are expectations?
Expectations are simply ideas or beliefs that we hold about how something should be. We often develop expectations based on our past experiences or what we’ve been told by others.
Often, our expectations are based on our own biases and preferences. We might expect that our favorite team will win the game, or that our friends will always be available to hang out with us.
We can also expect that our partner will always behave in a certain way, or that our boss will give us the raise we deserve.
The difference between expectations and goals
It’s important to distinguish between expectations and goals. These two words are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings.
Goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). In other words, they are concrete and realistic.
On the other hand, expectations are often vague and unrealistic. We might expect our partner to always make us feel loved and supported, but that’s not really something that can be measured.
Additionally, they often put pressure on the other person to meet our needs, which can be unfair and unrealistic.
An example: It’s important to set goals in our relationships because they give us something specific to strive for. However, it’s just as important to let go of expectations because they can often lead to disappointment.
Related: Setting Summer Goals
Realistic vs. unrealistic expectations
Realistic expectations are those that are achievable and based on reality. For example, it’s realistic to expect your partner to be honest with you or to expect your boss to give you feedback on your work.
Unrealistic expectations are those that are impossible to achieve or based on our own biases and preferences.
For example, it’s unrealistic to expect your partner to always be in a good mood or to expect your boss to give you a raise every year.
It’s important to be aware of the difference between realistic and unrealistic expectations because unrealistic expectations often lead to disappointment.
When we have unrealistic expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment because we’re expecting something that is impossible to achieve.
Today we are trying to let go of unrealistic expectations. The realistic ones will still be there, just without the disappointment that usually comes with them.
Examples of expectations
- I expect that my partner will always be available to spend time with me.
- I expect that my friends will always be interested in hearing about my day.
- I expect that I will have x amount of money in 3 years.
- I expect that I’ll always get the promotion I deserve.
- I expect that my boss will give me a raise if I do a good job.
- I expect that I’ll get an A on the test if I study hard.
- I expect that life will always be fair.
- I expect that people will always be polite.
Why having expectations is a problem?
The problem with unrealistic expectations is that they often set us up for disappointment.
This is because our expectations are based on our own biases and preferences, which means that they’re not always realistic. We often expect others to behave in a certain way, or for things to go a certain way, but this is not always possible.
Another problem with expectations is that they can foster a sense of entitlement.
When we have high expectations, we often feel like we deserve certain things, even if we haven’t worked for them. This sense of entitlement can lead to frustration and disappointment when things don’t go our way.
The paradox of expectations
One of the most difficult things about letting go of expectations is that we often don’t even realize we have them.
They can be so ingrained in our thinking that we don’t even question them.
For example, you might expect your partner to always remember your birthday, or you might expect your boss to give you a raise if you do a good job.
These beliefs can be difficult to let go of because they often feel like basic requirements in our relationships.
You have to try hard to catch yourself when you’re having these thoughts, and remind yourself that not everything will always go the way you want it to.
The key is to be flexible and open-minded and to remember that people are fallible.
What happens when our expectations are not met?
When our expectations are not met, we can often feel disappointed and frustrated. We might think that something is unfair, or that someone has let us down.
It’s important to remember that just because our suppositions are not met, it doesn’t mean that reality is wrong. It just means that our expectations were different from what actually happened.
If we can learn to let go of them, we may find that life is more enjoyable and easier to manage. We can also become more flexible and adaptable, which can help us in many different areas of our lives.
What are some benefits of letting go of expectations?
There are many benefits to letting go of our expectations. When we let go of our expectations, we may find that life is more enjoyable and easier to manage. We can also become more flexible and adaptable, which can help us in many different areas of our lives. Moreover, we may discover that we are more open to new experiences and opportunities when we let go of our expectations.
Steps to letting go of expectations
Acknowledge your expectations
When you catch yourself having a specific expectation, take a moment to stop and acknowledge it. Acknowledging our expectations is important because it helps us to be aware of them. When we are aware of our beliefs, we can better understand why they might not have been met, and we can work towards letting go of them.
Determine whether the expectation is realistic
After you have acknowledged your expectation, ask yourself whether it is realistic. It can be helpful to think about whether or not the thing you are expecting is actually under your control. If it is not under your control, then it might be time to let go of that expectation.
If the expectation is realistic, then go for it and work towards making it happen! But, if it’s not realistic, then move to the next step.
Think about why you had those expectations
It can be helpful to think about why we had certain expectations in the first place. Oftentimes, they come from our own preconceptions or from outside influences. Once we identify where our expectations came from, it can be easier to let them go.
For example, if our expectations come from a place of insecurity, such as needing to be perfect in order to be loved, we might want to work on our self-esteem.
Consider the possible outcomes
When we’re holding onto expectations, we’re usually only thinking about one possible outcome. But in reality, there are often many different outcomes that could occur.
By considering all of the possible outcomes, we can start to let go of our attachment to any one particular outcome.
Accept that things might not go the way you want them to
This can be a difficult step, but it’s an important one. Accepting that things might not go the way we want them to is a key part of letting go of our expectations. It’s important to remember that even if things don’t go the way we want them to, it doesn’t mean that they’re wrong or that we’re bad.
For instance, we might not get the job we interviewed for, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not good enough for the job.
Give yourself permission to let go
After we’ve taken the time to acknowledge, understand, and accept our expectations, we can then give ourselves permission to let them go.
This step is about making a conscious decision to let go of our attachment to a certain outcome.
It can be helpful to imagine yourself releasing your beliefs, or to write them down and then let them go physically.
Practice mindfulness and acceptance
Even after we’ve let go of our expectations, we might still find ourselves holding onto them from time to time. When this happens, it’s important to be mindful of our thoughts and emotions and to accept them without judgment.
Tips for letting go of expectations
In order to let go of our expectations, it can be helpful to:
- Be present.
When we are fully present in the moment, it can be easier to let go of our attachment to future outcomes.
Taking a few deep breaths can help us to relax and to let go of our expectations.
Meditation can help us to be more mindful of our thoughts and emotions, which can make it easier to let go of our expectations.
- Practice gratitude.
Focusing on the things that we are grateful for can help us to let go of our attachment to the things that we want.
Here is a list of 101 things to be grateful for.
- Let go of perfectionism.
Perfectionism can often be at the root of our expectations. If we can let go of our need for perfection, it can be easier to let go of our assumptions.
- Be flexible.
Being flexible and open-minded can help us to let go of our attachment to any one particular outcome.
- Be patient.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and let go of our expectations won’t happen overnight. It’s important to be patient with ourselves and to allow ourselves the time we need to let go.
- Be gentle with yourself.
If we’re feeling frustrated or stuck, it’s important to be gentle with ourselves. Remember that this is a process and that we’re doing the best we can.
- Practice forgiveness.
If we’re having trouble letting go of our expectations, it can be helpful to practice forgiveness. We can forgive ourselves for having certain assumptions and for not being able to let them go immediately. We can also forgive others who might have contributed to our expectations.
Expectations and minimalism
Since this is a blog about minimalism, I want to quickly make a note of the bonding between expectations and a minimalist lifestyle.
A minimalist lifestyle can be a helpful way to let go of our expectations. When we live minimally, we focus on the things that are most important to us and let go of the things that we don’t need. This can help us to let go of our attachment to material objects, and thoughts (including our beliefs) and focus on what’s truly important in life. Moreover, minimalism can help us to live more in the present moment, which can make it easier to let go of our assumptions and beliefs.
Letting go of our expectations can be a challenge, but it’s also an important and beneficial process. By taking the time to understand our beliefs, we can then let them go and enjoy the present moment.
Additionally, by embracing a more positive outlook, we can open ourselves up to new and wonderful experiences.
Life is full of surprises, so let go of your expectations and enjoy the ride!
I hope you enjoyed this article on letting go of expectations. If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!
Have an expectation-free day!