It has been quite a while since I have been inspired to write, but I think the universe has offered a number of recent experiences that all point to a defined topic for this current post.
We as humans tend to measure our personal worth, societal acceptance, and ultimately our happiness and/or success via the mind’s idea of intended outcomes – what I will term here as our “Expectations”.
Expectations, if you take a moment to ponder further, actually creep into every facet of our lives – from the mundane social interactions of, ”If I hold a door for you, I expect a “Thank You” in return”, up to the more practical (and many times aspirational) applications such as if you work with dedication, intellectualism and integrity, you will be rewarded with a promotion.
Almost every single choice that precedes an interaction with any type of person, every single day of our lives (stranger, familial, friendly or professional) is guided in our minds by an expectation. I have learned through a recent and very poignant experience that Expectation is closely linked to fear, which is driven by our ego. Essentially, Expectation is a roadblock to our higher self, which ultimately blocks us from what we all, as souls, aspire to be part of again – a state of being that encompasses nothing other then universally connected unconditional love.
The experience was a personal one that involved my husband who is self-employed with a business he started when we were in college. One of the over-arching original goals of his budding (and seemingly very successful) company was to build a business empire and finally sell it so that we as a family could have a nice retirement fund and set our children up for future financial security. For 15 years his numbers were on an upward trajectory and the original expectation of building to sell was coming into view. But then in year 16 & 17 the company over-extended itself into a new product category which distorted cash-flow and left the business on the brink of bankruptcy. To make matters worse, my husband had an accident during this time which rendered him incapacitated, so I had to step in as acting CEO to hold the place together – it was then I saw how bad things really were. How could he have let this come to pass? Why wasn’t he more on top of the numbers? Half of our current livelihood and the entirety of our future retirement were slowly fading away – what were we going to do?
As acting CEO, I sprang into action and pulled every resource (both personal and professional) together to get things back on track – but I couldn’t stay in this role forever. I needed to ensure that my husband could take the reigns back and do what needed to be done to right the ship. He needed to become the leader that his company needed to transform it back into an investor friendly target. So I took him to dinner and spoke to him, not as his wife but as his business partner, and asked him some very direct and difficult questions about his future vision for the company.
Upon his blank look and stuttered reply of “I don’t know”, I realized that what we envisioned for the end-game of the company was no longer.
This was a man who, in his mind, dreamt of retiring young, but upon execution, did not have the full set of leadership capabilities, nor the internal inspiration to see it through. In reality, my husband wanted to be back in the younger days of his “garage business” where everything was new and he was just riding the wave of success for fun. Now, sustainability of the company had become real work, and it was work outside of what he deemed his comfort zone. His heart, his love of the business (as he would be required to build it to sell) was gone. You just can’t change that in a person.
It was in this moment I realized that I had placed my own expectations on how I believed the situation (i.e. the ultimate success of the business) should have played out. The strategy, execution and decision making seemed so clear to me in almost every aspect of his business, why couldn’t he see the same things?
And then it hit me…
He is not me, and his business is not my journey. It is his journey, and no one can own that, nor experience that, but him. In the end, I shouldn’t have any expectations (even as his wife) because we each need to create our own stories by learning in the moment, each step of the way. By imparting my expectations, I was taking that experience, that power of the personal journey, away from him. Through this expectation mindset, I was also denying the focus I should be saving for my own personal journey. If I loved my husband in a truly unconditional manner, I would not have such expectations except for one… that whatever his choice, he would be happy. In the end, isn’t that all we want for our fellow souls?
After this revelation and subsequent letting go of expectations, I felt physically lighter and mentally more freed. I explicitly shared this transformation with my husband and let him know that I am here for him whenever he reaches out for my support in anything business related, but that I would no longer chime in on what he should or shouldn’t be doing because I was no longer attached to the outcomes (outcomes being translated into expectations). If my husband’s business was on its way to shutting down, then so be it. Without expectations of what the future SHOULD hold, this new view was forcing me to live in the here and now – to live in the very moment. This new thought process was very liberating as it takes away so much worry as well (and if you ask my husband, I am an expert at worry lol).
I started seeing how expectations create so much negativity in each of our lives – this negativity literally self-sabotages our pre-ordained happiness! From friends who hold grudges against other friends for not following through on the expectation of a returned phone call, families that are town apart through the non-lived-up-to expectations of obligatory holiday visits, employees who are enraged at the dashed expectation of a desired promotion, to the expectation of a “spirit token” when you donate to a homeless person on the street – these expectations keep us bound in a tit-for-tat world, where abundant giving is tempered by a need for a return on your “investment”.
No, this is not the type of world we can live in if we want to bring about the kind of peace and inner joy that is so desperately needed to support true happiness. The stress that is placed on us not only through the expectations that we place on others, but on our constant navigation of how to fulfill the incoming expectations from everyone around us, is a detriment to the goal of unconditional love.
I challenge you to review the relationships and interactions in your life to see where you can start letting go of expectations – start with something simple like not expecting a hand wave of thanks if you let someone merge in front of you on the highway, and then work your way up to the bigger expectations that truly keep us bound in fear and negativity (expectations around close relationships, money, achievement, even your health.)
When you live in the moment, and that moment is filled with absolutely no expectations, that moment can then be filled with love – and love, in the end, is the only true great equalizer.