Checking expectations

I am giving a presentation today to a wonderful group of Red Hat Ladies on my experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the country of Macedonia where I served from 2006-09. As I was updating my presentation, I came across a post about living abroad I had written in 2013 when I was returning from another short assignment with the Peace Corps in Macedonia.

In the post I shared what I learned about checking my expectations with my luggage; today I am sharing excerpts from that post, along with some tips on letting go.

luggage-646311_960_720While living abroad I quickly learned that some of my richest and most rewarding moments were dependent on how well I adapted when things turned out differently than I expected, which led to an even more valuable lesson – to be truly happy abroad – it’s best to check your expectations with your luggage!

And, guess what? The amazing part of that lesson is it works just as well at home as it does abroad! Letting go of your expectations, is one of the keys to being truly happy – anywhere, anytime. When we let go of what we expect to happen and how we expect others to act and react, the happier and more fulfilling our lives become.

Expectations take-up a great deal of room in our hearts and in our heads and require loads of effort to maintain, which leaves very little space and energy for understanding, communication,  growth, and happiness.

Think about it.

How many times a day do you get frustrated with the actions or non-actions of yourself or others, because you expected yourself or others to act differently?

How many times in your life have you look backward or forward through a very narrow lens, shaped almost entirely by your expectations or the expectations of others? Did not meeting those expectations cause you pain or frustration?

travel-164574_960_720Wouldn’t it be nice to leave all that behind? To give yourself and those around you a break? To unpack your baggage?

Why not give yourself a free and totally unexpected gift by decreasing the expectations you have for yourself and others (past, present and future), which just might  be the gift that gives you more happiness!

A great way to get started is to simply become more aware of the expectations we place on ourselves and others.

  • Next time you feel frustrated or angry – check to see if you have any expectations that weren’t met.
  • Try to identify what your expectations were. Write them down, this helps you remember the insight and you can look back on them in the future.
  • Don’t bother at this point trying to determine whether or not you should have expected something, or if you deserve some type of behavior or pay-off. What is key, is simply becoming more aware of the role expectations play in your life and feelings.
  • Later when you are not in the throes of the situation, you can look at your expectations more objectively and determine if they have value to you and if you need to keep them around or not.
    • If you decide to let them go, next time they pop-up, smile at your brilliance and foresight for being prepared to deal with their arrival, and then breathe deeply and slowly before your react. Repeat as necessary, until your frustration fades and only your congratulatory smile remains.
    • If you decide that a particular expectation is valuable and worth keeping, then spend some time figuring out how to change your situation (on a small or large scale) to ensure your need is met. This process takes time, so be patient and be prepared to do some work, but please don’t beat up on yourself along the way. Just keep moving forward.

I know it isn’t easy to change ourselves or our expectations, but I also know you can do it. In fact, I expect you to!  Just kidding, the choice is yours.

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