How to Live Without Expectations

"Do we seek perfection – which is unattainable or the best with what is realistically possible?"

Most of us have dreams for the future, but when those dreams become expectations, what was once a driving force becomes a paralyzing need. We become the perfectionist rather than the optimalist, and we live in a constant state of dissatisfaction. We obsess because anything less than perfection is unacceptable.

But how do we live without expectations? How do we learn to be optimalists rather than perfectionists?

Live in the now

Goals and dreams give us something to strive for, and it is great to have that objective, but do not confuse an objective with an endpoint.  The goal you are working towards is just one mile marker on the road of life, and if you spend the whole journey with your head down, trudging onwards, you will miss out on every other mile marker along the way.

Instead of taking the walk of life with the sole intent of getting to that one point in the road, set out and follow the road where it takes you. Yes, head in the direction of your objective, but if you see an intriguing detour along the way, take it, and experience the now rather than postponing everything with the expectation that what awaits at the end will be better.

Fulfilled expectations do not mean happiness

"(…) Human beings have a natural tendency to pin their hopes for happiness on fulfilled expectations."

It is an accurate statement. Most of us are convinced that if we get that one thing, we will be happy.

Take, for example, the six-year-old who wants a train set for Christmas. They beg and plead and say, “It’s the only thing I will ever ask for!”

So, they get the train set, and after a week, they grow tired of it and begin asking for other toys that they see on television commercials.

Most of us – if not all of us – are that six-year-old. We want something, but when we get it, the contentment we expected is fleeting because we get distracted by new wants.

If you take a step back and look at this cycle of wants, achievements, and fleeting contentment, there is very little satisfaction in it at all. But you can break this cycle by reminding yourself that happiness is not rooted in fulfilled expectations.

Focus on the more permanent things in your life, the joy you feel when you spend time with family, the fun you have while taking part in activities you love, and the laughter you share with friends. This joy does not get replaced by new wants; it simply makes memories.

A failure to meet expectations is not an all-around failure

When we fail to meet expectations, we tend to feel disheartened, sometimes even like we have lost value - this simply is not true.

Your value and your worth are not tied to a single action.

Would it have been nice to meet the expectations placed on you? Of course! But you are a complex human being with a lot to offer, and one single “failure” does not define who you are.

"Expect the best but prepare for the worst" is nonsense

Your whole life, you have probably heard people say: “expect the best but prepare for the worst.” While there is good intention behind this statement, it is nonsense. Preparing for the worst leaves you anxious, expecting the best can leave you disappointed.

It is much more constructive to give Doris Day a nod and exclaim “Que Será, Será” (What will be, will be) If you have done your part, if you have tried, expecting one outcome or the other will have no impact on the actual outcome. It has all done and dusted, and what will be, will be.

Do not stress yourself out over things you cannot change!

Everything is an opportunity

If you set your sights on one achievement and do nothing but obsess over that achievement, you have a single opportunity to succeed. A single opportunity to feel good about yourself.

If, however, you look at everything in life as an opportunity, you have countless chances of success and far more opportunities to enjoy life!

Embrace each experience life offers you and let the world mold you instead of trying to mold the world!


Are you letting expectations define who you are?

If you have been letting expectations define who you are, it is time to let go and start enjoying your life rather than trying to micromanage it!

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