Ronald Alexander, Ph.D. in his article, “The Art of Mindfully Letting Go With Buddha’s Four Noble Truths,” points out how expectations are detrimental to our happiness and wellbeing. This is all well and fine, but as much as I like to read and slowly adapt those teachings to real life, the “No expectations” rule is a hard one to follow. Especially, when it comes to human’s most basic needs, which in my book are food, love, and a sense of purpose. When you need something to survive, of course, you have expectations. However, the degree of expectations and eagerness must be balanced, and this is when Buddha’s four noble truths come in handy. Some ideas, while ideal can cause a lot of anxiety because we may believe we are all wrong for wanting something or needing it. Just don’t let expectations drown you.
From birth on, we are taught to always want more, through all mean; TV, commercials, movies and we mimic our own families and authority figures as well as the kids around us. We are told what a perfect life should look like and in that pursuit, our expectations are set so high that we end up feeling inadequate and defeated if we don’t attain all the goals that are imposed on us. Then we come to learn that we are miserable even when we get what we want. We want more, expect more. More happiness, more money, more love etc… And then we turn to Buddha and feel even worse when we realize we are so miserable that we want to get rid of expectations that are ingrained so deep inside us that there’s no going back. We feel stuck.
So, how about, not trying to believe we can eradicate expectations? How about accepting that we have them and work to learn to curve them. To at least lower them to a manageable level and work more on acceptance. Acceptance that will allow us to better deal with the disappointments that come when our expectations are not met.
Defying expectations is like killing hope. Don’t fight them. Surrender to them and learn to live with what was not to be. Of course, you should have a degree of expectations because there are certain things you want and you must set them on the table clearly so that others can tell you if they can meet them. Set your standards but also be flexible. It’s all about balance and learning to move on gracefully. I myself have finally learned when to walk away when my expectations won’t be met. It really keeps me from being overly disappointed and clears the way to be at peace with myself.