“Expectation is the root of all heartache”
said William Shakespeare and I couldn’t agree more. It seems to me that we experience so much pain from our attachment to our expectations, often more pain that the reality itself causes.
The concept of choosing not to have expectations is something that I have been thinking a lot lately. The last year and a half I have been struggling to balance being a new mother and devoting time to The Smart Plan. Almost every night I would wait until my daughter falls asleep to grab my laptop and work on several tasks. Keeping my social media channels active, sharing my ideas with my blog, preparing the packages with the products for the new customers etc.
The thing is that there’s no such thing as a predictable baby sleep schedule. Sometimes she would sleep at her exact bedtime. Other times she would fall asleep to wake up an hour later and stay awake for the next hour. Often it would take us forever to put her in bed. If you are a parent I am sure all these ring a bell. The thing is that every time she would wake up and I would leave my laptop to go and look after her, I would get mad that my work was interrupted. When I was working to meet a tough deadline I would get absolutely frustrated. I was feeling entitled to these three hours. They were mine. I kept telling myself that I give her all my attention the whole day and the whole night. These three hours are MINE!
Apart from that, I was facing the possibility of not meeting a deadline for the first time in my life. Since I started being active professionally, back in 1995, I always strived to make the commitment to my client my number one priority. Either working in a design agency, or as a freelancer I would not stop until the job was done. Regardless my time availability I would cut out activities in my free time, or sleep time. It was doable.
But now it was different. There was no free time and I were already sleep deprived. I was therefore facing the reality that time was really limited and very, very specific. If these couple of hours were gone, there was no way I could make up for them.
Let aside that being angry is not the best state of mind to help a crying baby calm down and fall asleep. All these hours that I would walk the room up and down carrying her, humming a song to help her relax, huge conversations were taking place in my head. One voice saying that I am a bad mother for getting angry, another one that I am a bad professional and one finally saying: STOP! All this craziness, all this frustration comes from the fact that I expect specific results until the end of the day. What if I don’t? What if I let go of all the judging? What if I let go of any expectation?
What if I live this moment exactly how it is without trying to change it?
And then these voices in my head would stop and all I could see was her beautiful face. I could feel her heartbeat, I could touch her, I could kiss her. I would smile and feel so happy and grateful that right there, in that very moment I was able to hold her in my arms. The emotions of love and affection would take over and all the deadlines in the world couldn’t make me feel sad.
This experience, which repeated again and again, caused a massive shift inside me. And after giving it some thought I gained the following powerful insights:
You can choose your state
It was so clear to me that I can choose my emotional state, only by controlling my focus and my attention. I can decide if I want to feel angry, frustrated and entitled or calm, thankful and happy. You might believe that your behaviour and your emotional state are the outcome of external factors, but the truth is that you can resolve how you want to feel about a specific situation and therefore create your reality.
Only by acknowledging your emotions and taking responsibility of how you choose to interpret life’s events.
I know it’s easier said than done and obviously it can get really tough when you face challenging situations in your life. It takes a lot of courage and practice.
Having expectations steals your present moment. It keeps you attached to ideal scenarios of how things should be, preventing you from being fully present. Instead of focusing your energy and giving your attention to the moment itself, you are busy feeling disappointed because your expectations are shattered.
It’s like a mental trap where all your thoughts are taking place in the future and any chance of honouring what is in front of you is destroyed.
Trust the process of life
Hanging on to your expectations feels like you are trying to control life. Expecting a specific outcome from a situation, when there are so many factors that can influence and change it, is like trying to keep things from evolving. Maybe you are afraid of the discomfort that any change or setback will bring. Apart from the fact that trying to control everything is exhausting, it is also pointless. Letting go of your expectations leaves you with the facts. With your truth.
Accepting this truth and deciding how you move on can not only be liberating but it can also be a good starting point for growth and improvement.
My mindset, my mentality in life is all about the idea of the present moment as a starting point with endless possibilities. By all means dream and hope that good things will happen. Detaching from a specific outcome doesn’t mean that you can’t design and pursue the life you want. It means that you can finally achieve freedom and focus at what is really important to you.
Κeep an open heart and surrender to what will come!