Did you also have one of these experiences? You are invited to a friend’s birthday party. Last year you also went and it had been an amazing celebration: great atmosphere, good vibes and you met interesting people. Everything was just perfect and in the flow. So, you cherish this happy memory. This year you are very excited to feel and experience the same happiness again. While dressing you think about all the people you will meet again and you anticipate how much fun it will be. But then you arrive at your friend’s house: the vibes are very different and you hear that the people you looked forward to meet most couldn’t make it. In an instant your mood changes from excitement to disappointment. You feel that the evening is spoilt and even consider leaving.

What will you do? Be upset and spread unhappiness or turn around and be determined to learn something from this? Or even open up and see things the way they are?

These situations are great opportunities to become aware of our expectations and what we “do” to ourselves if we let them rule our lives. Almost everywhere in our life we have expectations, small ones or big ones. And we are unaware of them most of the time. It could be something insignificant as “They should have parked the car properly!” when another car is protruding slightly into your parking space. We expect ourselves and people around us to behave, act and react in a certain way, and get upset if they don’t. We expect most aspects of our social and professional life to go into a certain direction but are unhappy when they don't.

What are your expectations?

Take a few moments and check all areas of your life. The present and past. What where the emotions and sensations like when one of your expectations turned into disappointment? Was there even one time when expectations helped you and gave you joy? You may even write down all the expectations you identify and add to this list during the next two to three days. My prediction is once you start the list will keep growing steadily. And you will be amazed by the result. Before we continue, let’s take a short look at the nature of our expectations.

Where do our expectations come from? And how do they work?

The basis are all the concepts and ideas we are exposed to: religion, social norms of what is acceptable and how one is supposed to behave, traditions, taboos, etc. We are aware only of a fraction of the concepts we have been internalizing since being a small child, but unaware of the majority. So, many times we run on auto-pilot.

Over-generalization is another essential building block: “Germans are punctual and structured”, or “Israelis are very energetic, noisy and chaotic”. Both aspects are used to build expectations on a meta-level and to judge if people around us conform to them or not.

Also, our memories and projections play a crucial role. When we are in a certain situation or environment, such as the party mentioned earlier, we look at them through the filter of our memories. The result: we project the feelings and experiences we had to the present moment and the future; and our memory dictates how we see the situation and what we want it to be. As a result, we do not see the particular moment just the way it is! Fresh, new, and full of possibilities.

Now, how can we turn around and be free from expectations?

Step 1: Accept that you have expectations and don’t make it a problem.

Step 2: Become aware of your expectations! Be aware of an expectation when it arises but don’t give it that much importance!”

At first, it probably takes some time to “catch” them and you might only be aware when the disappointment hits. But little by little you will become more skillful. Your consciousness will increase and you will become aware of expectations earlier and earlier. Until the moment when you just catch an expectation and let it go.

Step 3: Just observe your expectations and wonder or use humor: “Here I go again…” 😊

Little by little you will drop your expectations. It is quite a way to go but the first and most important step is to start becoming aware and the intention to take this path.

So, don’t be hard on yourself and enjoy the journey. Maybe you keep a journal to documenting your experiences and progress?!

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