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Are Your Expectations Setting You Up for Disappointment?

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“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 engineering school 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 an engineering 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 engineering 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 engineering right way.

I expected myself to be successful, which eventually escaladed into expectations of perfection in all the areas of my life.

One day, I was on a walk with my Dad and he said to me, “Amanda, 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’re 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.

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. 

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 engineering school. 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’re 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’re no longer trying to get something from them. You know you’re already fulfilled, happy, and complete, so if your circumstances change, you can maintain your joy.

Relax More, Judge Yourself Less

I’ve 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. Phew.

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.

Photo by janoma.cl

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About Amanda Christian

Amanda is the hiking yoga buddy you always wanted but never had…until now! She’s a miracle-fueled yoga instructor and a modern day voyager with lots of strange ideas. (Strange ideas that just might be what you’ve been waiting for.) Over on her site you’ll find weekly Soul Workouts with practical ways to experience more peace and personal power.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://selfstairway.com/ Vincent Nguyen

    I always love the topic of expectations vs. reality and that whole too high of standards leads to more disappointment. It’s a very difficult thing to discuss, Amanda, because it requires balance. We need expectations to drive us, while at the same time too much can be our emotional downfall.

    It’s easy for me to reflect on all the times where I set the bar too high and expected way too much when it wasn’t viable to do so. It seems like I’ve had the best emotionally positive results when I just lived life in the moment and let things happen when they do. Like I said before, it all comes back to striking the right balance between expectations and that mindset shift.

  • Slip_Mahoney

    Thanks Amanda! I see myself in many ways here.

    A good friend (and soon to be published author) shared some advice he had received from his writing coach:

    “Don’t get it right, get it written!”

  • Amanda Christian

    Oh I so needed to hear that today! Thank you :)

  • http://www.motivationmy.com/ Syaf

    I love this topic too.

    I was going through some tough times last year. A friend of mine was just “too busy” for me. Instead of being the understanding friend, I pulled an attitude and eventually got frustrated. I blocked this person from my social media (as if it would make a difference) and decided to give this person the cold treatment….

    … but somehow, deep down inside of me, i realise I was not REALLY upset with this person. I was just upset since this person did not meet MY expectations. How selfish could I be. I was REALLY selfish.

    I eventually said sorry and we finally got to meet and was given the opportunity to talk things out, just like what real friends would do.

    I learned to manage my expectations. I’m not perfect yet, but I’m still learning and practising it.

    Go with the flow. Some days you’ll have your way and some times it’ll just drain you out. Either way, it’s experience.

    Thank you for this wonderful and insightful post.

  • Joan Harrison

    I so agree Amanda, it is so much easier to just let go. Why do we try the hard way of making things happen, controlling things? Once you learn to pass it all over to the universe amazing things happen all by themselves. Finally I have ‘got it’ after causing myself frustration for too many years. It is so simple, sometimes though it does not feel easy!

  • Gainaru Gratiela

    Thank you Amanda. Honestly, I feel as if you wrote this article for me:D And you gave me strenght and hopes through this article, rang many bells and gave some really simple but useful solutions. Thank you, really;)

  • spicytofu

    This year I learned not to make judgements, and if I do, make them positive. A good girlfriend told me, “Then it becomes evaluations.” I think when we don’t judge, we are nicer to ourselves and less critical or harsh. This allows us to move forward and to give the opportunity to try something different. I think overcoming the fear of making mistakes was the biggest battle. Yes, I am losing the expectations, AND I am living in the NOW. My favorite quote from you is “It’s okay to have goals, but make sure to leave room for something even greater to come along.” So true….

  • http://twitter.com/chanonista a painting ocelot

    this article came to me at just the right time. thank you, amanda.

  • http://freehappiness.in/ Chetan Sharma

    I think you’re right Amanda. Setting up expectations for yourself and then seeing yourself as a failure for not meeting them, is the most demotivating you can do to yourself.
    Also a perfect balance is required in this case, because we cannot too much lower our expectations. Also setting up a definite goal for yourself is a MUST to do, if you want to progress in life. The idea is to set an achievable goal rather than setting up something which is impossible to achieve. I hope you got my point! :)

  • Amanda Christian

    Hey Chentan. I agree. I think it’s great to set a goal as long as you find complete fulfillment and happiness in process of working towards it, and not just on the outcome itself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=873285079 Ara Bedrossian

    Indeed, I think expectations come from needing to control our environment.
    I especially like this quote from Alan Watts on that…powerful stuff:
    “The refusal of the unknown brings the feeling of insecurity, and in its train all the frustrating and impossible problems, all the vicious circles of human life.”

  • lv2terp

    Fantastic post!! Thank you for this beautiful wisdom, it is much appreciated on my journey to let go of expectations as well! :-)

  • Marie

    What I needed to read at this moment. I think this is the biggest mistake that I do to myself – expecting too much that is why I do not enjoy little things that I accomplish. I always felt that big achievements are the only ones that deserve praise and pats in the back. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Nichole T.

    When reading this, I swore I was writing it. I can really identify with your experiences. This is a great article Amanda. Thanks!

  • Basia Furmanek

    Wonderful and life-changing to me, really.. Thank you, thank you, thank you.