Are Your Expectations Holding You Back?
“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” ~ Alan Watts
For a long time, I felt like I was standing on a riverbank just watching the water of life go by, too scared to jump in and play. I was waiting for the perfect current to come along that I could ride all the way to the completion of my intensely detailed life goals.
I didn’t want to move until I felt like success was guaranteed and I was certain it was the “right” thing. Life was flowing, and I wasn’t doing anything. You can never be certain about the future.
Around this time, I graduated from the University and instead of feeling excited and free, I felt like a large weight was dropped on my shoulders. I had a lot of expectations to meet, all of which were self-imposed. After all, I had a science degree. By the world’s standards, I was bound to be successful, get a great job, and make money.
The thing is, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the path of science in the traditional sense was not right for me. I also couldn’t seem to function with the weight of these expectations. I got depressed, frustrated, and disappointed with myself for not pursuing science in the right way. I expected myself to be successful, which eventually escalated into expectations of perfection in all the areas of my life.
One day, at the end of a long day in the laboratory conducting experiments, I was on a walk with my mentor (on our way to the bus stop, heading home) and he said to me, “Murty gaaru! (I used to be called with my middle name; and ‘gaaru’ in my mother tongue is an adjective that symbolizes reverence), you just have to jump in the river and swim! You might wash up on the shore of the riverbank a little ways down, but at least you are moving. Plus, you never know who or what will be there on the shore waiting for you. Just jump in and stop trying to set expectations for the future. Jump in and ride whatever current looks good now.”
It took me a while to digest what he was saying. But, once I understood it, that’s exactly what I did. Instead of focusing on what to do, where to go, and how I was going to accomplish everything I thought I wanted in life, I focused on releasing the expectations I had about it all. I focused on what I wanted to and could do now. I finally jumped in; finished my Ph. D. dissertation and left the country for further research in Canada.
The following are some tips and lessons I learned while making the transition from expectation overload to the lightness of exploration.
Less Expectation, More Exploration And Trust
Oh, this is so juicy! When expectations rule our lives, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Then guess what? We judge ourselves harshly for it.
For example, I had a list of specific measurable goals for where I thought I should be when I graduated from the University. When I finally did and realized I didn’t meet any of my goals, I felt disappointed and started telling myself I was a failure. Of course, this behavior got me nowhere.
The most important thing I learned is to release my expectations about how I think my life should go, and approach life from a place of exploration. This opens you up to experiencing things that are beyond your wildest dreams. It’s okay to have goals, but make sure to leave room for something even greater to come along.
Maybe the most peaceful and quickest way to achieve something is a way you haven’t thought of yet. Be willing to go with the flow. This requires trust. I learned that when I let go and trust I will receive everything I need, I always do. I often find myself saying at the end of the day, “Wow, this day was amazing and I had no plan, yet I accomplished everything I needed to.”
Explore through life knowing deep down that you are always guided to exactly where you need to be. Plus, doesn’t exploring sound like more fun than expecting?
Look Beyond Your Distractions
A lot of us want external things because of the way we think they will make us feel. I wanted a skinnier body because I thought it would make me feel happy and loved. I wanted a successful career because I thought I would feel fulfilled. I wanted a relationship because I thought it would relieve my loneliness.
These things can distract us from looking within ourselves for answers. When they fail to do what we want, we fell disappointed and angry. In order to release this cycle of disappointment, we need to release the belief that they will save us.
If you want to experience more love, start giving more love. If you don’t want to feel lonely, then start healing the belief that you are alone. If you want to feel like you are worth something, start treating yourself like you are worth something, because you most definitely are.
When you heal the beliefs that run wild in your mind, you can still enjoy the externals, but you are no longer trying to get something from them. You know you are already fulfilled, happy, and complete, so if your circumstances change, you can maintain your joy.
Relax More, Judge Yourself Less
I have learned that the loving voice within, also known as our inner guide, has a bigger plan for us than we have for ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I want that plan!
As it turns out, right now you are exactly where you need to be.
The only thing you need to do in order to follow the path of your inner guidance is listen to it by releasing your judgments about what you think is happening. You don’t have to have everything figured out right now.
Get quiet and listen for guidance about what to do in this moment. Any advice coming from love will be something you can do now. The thought of doing it will make you feel lighter and excited.
Change Your Thoughts
If you are feeling disappointed, it’s because of the thoughts you have about the situation. So, if you don’t want to feel disappointed, change your thoughts.
The first thing I do when I feel any disturbance to my peace of mind is say to myself, “I am determined to see this person/situation differently.” This is how you step into your power. Everything happens for you, not to you. You’ll be amazed at the shifts in perception that occur when you become willing to release fear and see love instead.
When you focus on releasing the thoughts about how you imagined your life to be, your most loving, truthful self can come forward and guide you. There is nothing to figure out.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.