Expectations are dangerous! When we expect something to happen, we are predicting the future. To make it worse, we tie emotions to that prediction and think about them day after day. We eagerly look forward to the raise we should get, confident we deserve it after all the long nights. Or we dread that tough conversation with our loved one because we’re sure it won’t end well. In less time than it takes to make a cup of tea, we become emotionally attached to our prediction about a future event. That’s terrifying.

The reality is the future is out of our control and being married to a specific future is crazy! (cue Mugatu) When we create an expectation, we’re doing one of two things.

  • By expecting something good to happen, we aren’t increasing the chances of it happening. We’re just setting ourselves up to be disappointed if it doesn’t.
  • On the other hand, when we’re dreading something in the future, we aren’t keeping it from happening. We’re just living through that shitty situation before it happens, bringing unnecessary suffering into our lives today.

It’s this vicious cycle that convinced me to work on limiting my expectations. By not attaching myself to a particular outcome, I’ll avoid betting on an uncontrollable future and open myself up to something else entirely taking place. This is good! Life is something meant to be experienced not controlled. My approach is to remind myself often to ‘minimize my expectations’. Putting a sticky note on my wall and repeating those three words at the end of every meditation helps me check myself.

But the truth is I still have some expectations. For example, I expect to have kids someday. Which got my thinking, is there a difference between a goal and an expectation? It seems like:

  • Goals are something we want to Something we strive towards, that help us stay focused and motivate us to push forward. Most people would say that goals are a good thing.
  • Expectations are something we believe will Something we are anticipating. Something that feels almost certain. I’d argue expectations are a bad thing.

So how do we strive towards something (goal) without eventually believing it will happen (expectation)? And is that even the right thing to do?

Many people say you must whole-heartedly believe you will achieve your goals, which sounds an awful lot like an expectation to me. But do we really want a life without goals? I don’t think so. So where do we go from here? Eliminate expectations to protect ourselves at the risk of wandering aimlessly through life? Or embrace goals for the benefits they provide, try not to become overly attached to them, and know we will be hurt along the way? My gut says the latter.

I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts.