The Secret to Freedom & Happiness

Have you ever planned something, and it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to? Are you disappointed with people when they don’t do what they say they will do? Do you expect other people to react or reply to you on social media when you post something?

Expectations are projections into the future. We create them because we can’t accept the present moment, so we hide in an ideal future moment that is not really real. Expectations can’t actually make you happy because you are not enjoying what is. You are striving for something that hasn’t come true yet.

Even when you have met your expectations, two things are likely to happen:

  1. You have more expectations for the future, so you never really take the time to celebrate and enjoy the moment, or
  2. Meeting your expectations didn’t give you the satisfaction and happiness that you expected to receive.

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”
― Donald Miller

Instant Gratification

The joy we get from meeting our expectations is fleeting. We end up wasting a lot of time waiting or worrying in the process of meeting those expectations – on top of the risk of being disappointed. Blaming other people for the pain we feel each time someone fails to live up to our expectations is no different than burning your tongue on coffee that’s too hot, and calling the cup an idiot!

Whenever you have an expectation, no matter how small it is, there’s always a possibility it won’t be met. You can plan your life down to the finest detail, and you still cannot be sure it will follow through each time. In fact, life has its own plan for you and, more often than not, it is not even close to what you expected.

“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”
― Brandon Sanderson

Unequal Reciprocity

When you enter into a relationship with someone who does not have a heart as big as yours, or perhaps they value different things, you can end up feeling as if you are being short-changed and taken advantage of. Finding people who appreciate what you do for them and who will reciprocate these actions is one of life’s most painful lessons.

One of the biggest challenges we face in life is learning to accept people for who they truly are, not for who we want them to be in the moment. The sooner we realise our expectations cannot change people, the better. In any client relationship, one of the first things we do is set clear expectations. So why don’t we do this in our other relationships when one of the keys to happiness lies in managing our expectations of people and circumstances.

“He was swimming in a sea of other people’s expectations. Men had drowned in seas like that.”
― Robert Jordan

What Are You Trying to Prove?

Ideally we would give without expectation, accept without reservation, and love without hesitation. Unrealistic expectations inevitably lead to disappointment. When people are obsessed with finding the perfect career or the perfect spouse, they tend to become increasingly frustrated and lonely when it doesn’t pan out. Taken to the extreme, having unrealistically high expectations can prevent us from enjoying the experience altogether. We squeeze the joy out of life when we could just as easily let go and adjust our expectations. Such disappointment can lead to several outcomes, including trying to get a person to change and increased frustration towards the person who is causing the disappointment. This is a huge problem in the relationship since the fault actually lies with us for putting the pressure on the person in the first place.

If you feel like you’re running in circles because a situation like this is driving you round the bend, (ultimately because you can’t control the outcome or the behaviour of another) it is time to acknowledge your lack of control and confront the fear of chaos and the unknown that this acknowledgment triggers in you. Ultimately our need for control is a mechanism of self-protection in an attempt to avoid experiencing more hurt, should ‘they’ not behave as we would. Confronting our fears, avoids creating more karma drama with those around us. It is only by facing these fears that we can truly maintain an accurate awareness of our own reality. Above the fear, we are more able to determine what is truly expected from others.

“Blaming others is an act of refusing to take responsibility. When a person can’t accept the fact or the reality, they blamed another person or the situation instead of taking accountability.”
― Dee Dee Artner

Acceptance is Key

If a goal is really important to you, communicate those details with the other party. Discuss and agree to the boundaries – and the consequences of not maintaining those boundaries – so you can move from unspoken expectations to agreed-upon commitments. There is nothing more powerful than two people putting in equal effort toward a desired goal. Know that the combined effort is a force to be reckoned with … and then let go of the outcome. The ride is far more enjoyable this way, and you allow yourself to be surprised and delighted by life’s rewards.

Acceptance is key. When things do not work out the way we had planned, it is far more beneficial to realise the role we played, and to accept that life throws us curve balls so we can learn to handle things differently next time, rather than becoming frustrated and overwhelmed at the situation. When we go into a situation or relationship with an open mind, we allow ourselves to fully immerse ourselves without the pressure of living up to preconceived notions.

We always have a choice. We can choose not to have unrealistic expectations of others. So why do we?

1. We think other people think the same way we do.

If something is logical to us, then it should be logical to other people, right? The same goes for expectations. If we expect a particular outcome, then of course everyone else must be thinking the same thing. Only then it’s not just about our expectations, we start developing emotions too. We begin to become attached to the outcome. If we’re excited, we expect others to feel the same and if we’re upset, then they should be too. It is very hard for us to notice this when we’re caught up in the moment, unless we stop and reflect. People think and react differently. Otherwise, we would all be carbon copies of each other.

2. We have ulterior motives.

As altruistic as our motivations may appear, we are invested in our desire for a particular outcome—one that gives us what we want or agrees with our viewpoint. Wanting to control the outcome raises expectations and paves the way for judgmental thoughts and opinions about other people.

3. Insecurity and fear of change

The over-protective ego can trigger fears about change. If we see others doing something we’re afraid of trying, our automatic response might be that they shouldn’t be doing it. They’re the crazy ones, not us! When we judge others, it’s a reflection of the judgement we have about ourselves. As within, so without. When we seek feedback, it’s because we’re starved for validation and approval. And we tend to react strongly when we don’t get what we need.

“People express their arrogance in their failed expectations.”
― Travis Luedke

The Secret

Letting go is not about giving up or thinking negatively of others. It’s about releasing our attachment to the outcome and eliminating the need for validation.

1. What is your true motivation? Why are you doing or saying something? Is it based on a genuine desire to engage in conversation or to act in a way that reflects your truth? Your motivation is the foundation of your thoughts and actions. Be honest with yourself. You might be able to hide your intentions from other people momentarily, but you can’t hide them from yourself. Doing that would only result in needless suffering.

2. Think of your expected outcome and the worst- case scenario. Are you okay with anything less than your ideal result? Can you live with it? If you can’t, revisit #1.

3. Have alternatives when you can. I’m a big fan of Plan B. This only applies to situations where you are waiting for a particular response. Having alternatives can help you move on. If there is no alternative, peacefully close the chapter knowing that you did your part and you learned a valuable lesson.

4. Don’t take things too seriously or too personally. Your expectations are yours and yours alone. The same goes for everyone else. This simple shift in perspective can dramatically change how you interact with others. You can move in the direction that’s right for you without personalising what others say or do.

5. Take inspired action. Act from your heart, not your ego. What you focus on expands, so focus on what you are FOR – not on what you don’t want. Do what matters to you the most, regardless of challenges or what other people say. When we stop moving forward because we get stuck on an unfulfilled expectation, we experience suffering. Emotion is ENERGY-IN-MOTION, so get moving. Speak from your heart. Say what you mean and mean what you say – in the most supportive way. Your words are very powerful, so let them reflect your truth.

6. Accept Your Humanity. You will slip and find yourself agitated or annoyed with someone. Don’t beat yourself up. Rethink and reframe—what can you do to accept the other person’s actions or position without judgment? When others react in unexpected ways, give them the benefit of the doubt. They’re human too.

7. Fuggettaboutit. This is the essence of letting go—saying or doing something and then completely forgetting about it. This way, you don’t sit round waiting for feedback or validation. Stagnation is stifling and depressing. Have faith that things will turn out for the best—no second-guessing or regrets. Accept the outcome as is while remaining open to guidance on what to do next.

When you let go of your expectations of others, you free yourself from attachment to a desired outcome beyond your control. This allows you the freedom to move forward with ease and clarity. You interact genuinely, without hidden motives or disappointment. You become better equipped at embracing what others have to offer. Your newfound freedom creates opportunities for you to be of service to others in more intuitive and authentic ways. To let go is to lovingly surrender to what is and be at peace with it.

“The perfect relationship is defined by you. It’s not defined by what you read or the unrealistic expectations people give to validate themselves.”
― Dominic Riccitello

We are Each the Leader.

Don’t expect other people to be nice to you. Instead, be nice to yourself by leading the way. How you treat yourself sets the stage for every other relationship in your life. You have absolutely have no control over anyone else’s actions. You only have control over what you will and will not put up with.

You might have very few expectations for other people or situations. So what if other people have expectations of you?

  • Parents expect you to be a doctor, lawyer or accountant.
  • Your partner expects you to spend time together.
  • Your children expect you to be there for all their rugby matches or dance rehearsals.
  • Society expects you to go to university, get married and have kids.
  • Your peers expect you to be at their level in terms of wealth and status.

“If you were easier on yourself, you wouldn’t be so tough on everyone else.”
― Kate McGahan

Did you Get Your Expectations from Someone Else?

We are all pressured to do things because someone else wants us to do it. However, most of the time, we do have a choice.

For self-respect and sovereignty do not let other people’s expectations of you become your expectations. You can’t help other people manage their expectations. If your parents aren’t happy with what you do in life, then it’s their expectations which are making them unhappy. It’s not your fault. You are not the one disappointing them, they are trying to control something in which they have no control over. It is their expectations that are causing their disappointment. Besides, meeting their expectations won’t make them happy because they would only have more expectations of you. And it definitely won’t make you happy, so why do it?

“Expectation has brought me disappointment. Disappointment has brought me wisdom. Acceptance, gratitude and appreciation have brought me joy and fulfilment.”
― Rasheed Ogunlaru

Like Attracts Like

When you are attached to an outcome, you expect things to happen at a certain time and in a certain way. When something does not happen at the expected time or in the expected manner, feelings of fear rise up. Like attracts like so, in thinking fearful thoughts, you are literally creating what you are fearing.

Fear, doubt and worry are the last things you want to experience in the process of manifesting your desires. This is why the very best way to create what you want is by practicing detachment. Acting on your desires with a detached involvement means that you do what you are guided to do by your heart, and you do not judge the rightness of your actions by the results you receive because you are always taking right action.

“Stay in the centre, and you will be ready to move in any direction.”
― Alan W. Watts

Right Action

When we take the path of right action we set in motion a series of events which holographically mirror that – like fractals, rippling out through the field. Whereas, when we act in a way that is not in alignment with our deepest knowing of what is right within our heart, we attune to a trajectory of further dissonance.

This means we really need to be as clear as possible in our thoughts so we can discern, in the moment, the path of highest wisdom. When we cloud our thinking with substances, distractions or the imposition of pleasing others, we override the quiet voice within that waits patiently for our attention. This results in clouded judgment rather than crystal clear awareness of what is the right thing to do in any given situation according to the wisdom of our heart.

Expectation also colours our perception of things. You don’t see how things are really happening when you expect them to happen a certain way. This prevents you from recognising the good that comes your way and causes you to push it away thinking that it is not what you want because it doesn’t look exactly like what you were expecting. Without preconceived ideas to limit your perception, you are able to accept what comes your way as part of the solution to realising what you truly desire in life. You are able to receive and not resist truth and love.

Choose today to live with an attitude of no expectations on the outcome and you will experience more freedom than you can imagine. Failure will not stop you anymore because it no longer exists in your perception. You either win, or you learn.

“Expectations ruin the pleasures of life. To overcome every bad and appreciate every good, consider every day your last and take no one for granted.”
― Nael Gharzeddine


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