It is quite easy to fall victim to the expectations we have for our life. At a young age, we have outside influences laying the foundation for how our lives should be, telling us that it would be in our best interest to go to college, to then find the love of our life, followed by marriage, buying a house, and then filling that house with little ones. And it doesn’t stop there! Each day we are inundated with messages telling us how we are expected to act as a boy or a girl, what type of parent we should be, or even telling us how we should approach aging. These expectations then become ingrained in every fiber of our being, making us believe that until we meet them we are not complete, we are not whole.
But the truth is, each of us is already complete or whole, just as we are. We don’t need to reach a specific milestone to live a full, vibrant, happy life. In fact, by clinging to how we think things should be, we limit our ability to live fully and to embrace all that this life has to offer. We are only granted one lifetime, so throw those expectations to the wind and embrace each moment as it arises.
Here are 6 ways to help you let go of expectations:
1. Accept change
Change is inevitable as we live in an impermanent world. It is not something to be feared, but instead something that you can learn to embrace. Change helps you grow and allows you to gain a better understanding of who you are as an individual. It is in times of change, such as moving or changing jobs, in which I have learned the most about myself and what I am capable of. Approach change as a teacher that you can learn from, rather than something that leaves you lying awake at night or ties your belly up in knots. Change will open you up to a life you never knew was within reach.
2. Avoid control
This goes hand in hand with accepting change. Living in an impermanent world makes you realize that you truly don’t have control over anything. The more you try to control things to be what you want them to be, the more likely you are to live in a state of worry and distress. By loosening the grip of control, you can allow each experience to be what it is, and it is quite possible that those experiences will far exceed any expectations you have.
3. Extend gratitude
Showing gratitude is one of the best practices to help you realize how much you already have in your life. When you are focused on reaching a specific milestone, it’s easy to lose sight of how wonderful your life already is. By getting caught up in your expectations, you hinder your ability to be happy with where you are, right now. Being grateful for what you have, in this moment, will fill your heart to the brim with love and happiness.
4. Eliminate the timetable for you life
Many of us have this idea of the timetable in which we feel graduating college, getting married, buying a house, or having children is acceptable. But life is unpredictable and can throw that timetable right out the window. There is no need to make your life happen in a certain order or by a certain time. If you don’t get married by 25 and have your first child by 27, that’s ok! You haven’t failed. The world hasn’t ended. And I guarantee that your life is still wonderful. Rather than placing pressure on yourself to meet expectations by a certain time, just live your life. Be open to whatever may arise and know that things will happen when they are meant to happen. You are exactly where you are supposed to be, right now.
5. Try new things
Trying new things requires you to let go of your expectations, because in it’s very nature, it doesn’t allow you to have any. Yes, you may have done some research beforehand (thank you, Google!), leaving you with an idea of what the experience may be like, but for the most part you don’t know what to expect until you have actually experienced it. So incorporate new things into your life! Try a new type of cuisine, go sailing, or visit a new place. Anything that leaves you with little to no expectations, will provide you the opportunity to greet each moment with openness and excitement.
6. Know you are doing the best that you can
We tend to hold ourselves to rather high expectations, and while this can be beneficial in helping us strive for more or to be a better versions of ourselves, it can also lend to a feeling of being inadequate when we fall short. But the fact is, you are doing the absolute best that you can- whether as a parent, a caretaker for an aging family member, a person turning their passion into a career, or whatever it may be you are trying to accomplish. We are all simply trying to figure it out as we go, and that is the beautiful thing about life. No one has all the answers. You just do the best you can in each and every moment you have.