“The weight of expectations limits how high we can soar.”
To open ourselves emotionally feels akin to standing on a precipice without a guardrail. But if we stand on the precipice having done our homework — to ground ourselves, understand ourselves, master our mind, teach ourselves the soft skills that enhance the quality of everyday life – interactions, opportunity — we have given ourselves a paragliding canopy that when we step into the unknown, we begin to soar rather than plummet and move with the wind.
Often the saying is shared, focus on what you can control and let go of the rest, but too often we don’t fully understand what we have control over, or if we do, we don’t put in the necessary work and time to strengthen the skills that put us in a powerfully advantageous position. All I can say is, the time is a worthwhile investment that will pay for itself and then some. Put in the time, so you can experience how awesome soaring can be.
The gift of letting go of expectations is that we open ourselves up to being surprised. Yes, admittedly, the surprises can sometimes be shockingly unwanted, but even if an unwanted occurrence happens, it takes us along a path where so long as we stay in the present and keep our mind open, beautiful surprises begin to reveal themselves. In fact, sometimes, I would argue, such unwanted events happen so that we cannot possibly have expectations, so all we can do is be open because we couldn’t fathom the script of what is happening. In such a case, we have been given an awesome gift. Our crutch of holding tightly onto expectations has been ripped away from us because it wasn’t actually helping us. In order to soar, we must refuse to reach for such a crutch again.
The voices and scripts of society can easily run through our minds even if we are engaged in something we are trying ardently to remain open toward and refrain from holding any expectations: how a certain moment should unfold, how long certain timelines should take, what information should be gained, and the role of all of the other people when you act or say a certain thing. But the reason scripts are written is to control the narrative, and we cannot control the narrative of living real life. We can try to control and sometime it appears others have done just that, but often unexpressed feelings are suppressed that eventually erupt years later hurting more people far more deeply than had to happen should we have tossed the script from the beginning.
Right now, you may be thinking about a particular journey you are on at the moment. You have hopes for how you would like it to unfold, but only time will tell, and that time, that waiting, can feel incredibly tortuous if we are not accustomed to letting go and being fully engaged with our everyday life.
Once you become more comfortable and find more peace in the present moment, (in other words, being Presence as talked about in this post), it becomes easier, dare I say more comfortable to not know and be excited about any and all surprises that will eventually cross your path. Why? Because you are not expending energy on something that may or may not happen, so you give all of your energy to now and the now becomes oh so much sweeter.
What is the “Now”?
The now is how you build your life, how you build your days, the rituals you create, the career or calling you pursue to contribute what you can uniquely give to the world, being loving and acting in integrity with those you currently are in relationships with (family, work, friends, community). When you are living a life you love living, you can be at peace with not knowing and you let go of expectations.
How do we let go of expectations?
- Release all stories of how tomorrow, next week, next year, the rest of our life should unfold.
- Hold ourselves fully in the present moment.
- Give gratitude for even the smallest details and occurrences that go well, bring you joy and nourish a beautiful moment.
- Focus on figuring out only the next best step upon which to focus your energy, time and capabilities.
- Fall in love with your everyday life (if you don’t love it, begin creating it intentionally – read TSLL’s 1st and 2nd book for inspiration and check out Podcast Bundle #5 – the fundamental skills to live a life of true contentment).
- Let go of passing judgment on others and even yourself.
- Give all that you can in each moment and communicate your needs (more rest, a break, good food) but make no excuses when things don’t go as expected or desired. A lesson rests in the unfolding whether wanted or not – be resolute in finding it.
More often than not, surprises are lovely gifts from the universe, and if your first response when such good news or events occur is to do a happy dance, then you are in good company with me. That is the key. When surprises happen, celebrate them. No matter how small, decide to put good energy back out into the world because after all, good energy came your way.
Your surprises deemed good will be unique to you and where you are along your life’s journey. Don’t let anyone tell you not to dance. Dance, be giddy, embrace your goofy, lovely self, because what we celebrate we invite more of into our lives. If we are too busy complaining about what isn’t happening, studies have actually showed, regular and prolonged complaining shrinks the hippocampus. I know! The hippocampus is an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. So we are doing ourselves not only a disservice, but making it more difficult to live well each time we habituate complaining into our approach to daily and engaging with the world.
Ultimately, we have a choice, and the better we habituate our lives to constructive habits that support a life that savors the everyday, a positive compound effect begins to take place. It begins subtly and may initially seem nothing is changing for the better, but before you realize it, you are worrying less about what you hope will happen and being open and embracing fully what is happening.
Wishing you a wonderful new week and may the surprises in your everyday be abundant and beautiful.
SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY
9 Ways to Let Go of the Myth of a Perfect Life, episode #262
5 thoughts on “Be Available to Be Surprised (i.e. let go of expectations)”
A great post Shannon. I am appreciating your posts and thoughts about being “presence”, and I wholeheartedly agree that letting go of the expectations, and minute planning, allows us to embrace life as it happens and revel in the possible surprise we will experience. However hard that can sometimes be! I am a planner, as I like to be organised but I definitely trying to take each day one step at a time, and figure out the unexpected occurrences, rather than try to control every situation.
I found the information about the Hippocampus shrinking when we complain very interesting! I like the saying (I think attributed to the Royals) – “Never complain, never explain”. Yes sometimes we may need to allow close people in our lives to the information they need to understand our choices, but I choose no longer to feel beholden to others to explain my life choices. and the never complaining helps me think as to whether it is constructive for me to air my grievances, or wasted time and energy about something that cannot be changed.
Echoing Sarah H. above – great post and so, so needed. I think I definitely shrunk my hippocampus last year when something that seemingly came so easily to everyone I knew wasn’t happening for me. It was extremely difficult for me to stay present, and I wasn’t successful at doing so every day, but looking back on the year, the times that I *was* present (instead of moping over unrealized expectations) were a much more fulfilling way to spend my days. Thanks for reminding us of this important practice.
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .”
—Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5
Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher born into slavery around 50CE, posited in his teachings that the only control we have in our lives is our attitude about events, not the events themselves, those things either under our control(internal) or those things that are not( external). Which speaks directly to the joy or contentment or curiosity we can bring to our life moments, therefore our lives, as Shannon presents— that surprises are neither good nor bad. There are lessons to be learned, both fun or not so much. And she reminds us — live through all of them as honestly as you can so you may reap their benefits. I work every day to see the surprises or discoveries as the beneficial gift that they are. Thank you Shannon, lovely post.
Thank you for this Rona, this completely embodies what I’m trying to achieve myself.
Great post Shannon. Love the responses from Sarah H, Laurie Sand Rona. AThe list of how to let go of expectations should be framed. Life is full of surprises, good and not so good. I will quote my dear mother she always said to me “never expect anything in life. It’s up to you to create and appreciate with it any imperfections ” . It’s been my life’s practice since I was old enough to make sense of it. When we stop trying to control that which we cannot we release the energy within to be able to appreciate and enjoy the happy surprises and do the ‘happy dance”. If it’s not, then use the same energy to recognise it and carry on. Incidentally, I did a happy dance recently when I was foraging and found some gorgeous wood blewit mushrooms. The mushroom season is over but these like the cold and turned up late on my plate? xx