Feb 16, 2011

Posted by in Articles, Energy & Chakras | 0 Comments

How Expectations Can Fail Us

How Expectations Can Fail Us

We all know that things don’t always work out the way we expect. Yet, for myself, I’ve found that doesn’t necessarily prevent me from piling up the expectations. You see, I’m a planner, and I like to have things nicely set up ahead of time. That recently backfired on me and made me rethink the way I do things.

I’ll be honest– for a true Christmas lover, Christmas was a little bit of a letdown this year. It was harder than I anticipated– we traveled with our two young kids, including our three month-old; our infant isn’t sleeping through the night most nights, and the travel seemed to throw him off; we were in a new home that required a lot of last minute work to prepare for the holiday and our guests; we had family guests, including a toddler, for a long period of time; and, here’s the clincher– we ALL (except the infant, thank God) got a terrible stomach virus that rolled through the house, striking a family member a day for about a week. By the end, we were all hobbled, exhausted, and ready for a the holiday to be behind us.

Now there were certainly wonderful moments as well. It was beautiful to see all the children together; my daughter was really excited about Christmas this year, and it was fun to see her glee unfold; my family and I had a lower-key than usual holiday, by design, and the scale of it felt nice. But I felt sad about how far short of my expectations the holiday had fallen, and I spent days trying to deconstruct the whole thing and figure out exactly what had gone wrong.

It occurred to me during this deconstruction process that when a whole bunch of people in a relatively small space get sick and have to spend extended periods of time in bed, plans are invariably going to get thrown off. So the sickness was certainly a factor in throwing off our holiday plans. But it occurs to me, as more time passes, that it was really my expectations that set me up for what turned out to be a fall. The pressure I had put on the situation made pivoting and working with the situation at hand more difficult.

Jill Leigh, Founder and Director of the Energy Healing Institute, explains that expectations can set us up for a fall when things do not go the way we envisioned. She says that expectations set up specific plans for how we see things playing out (perhaps we imagine, for instance, that this holiday will be just like the ones in years past; that everyone will arrive well-rested and in good spirits, and then we’ll have cocktails, and then we’ll sing carols led by Aunt Mildred, and then we’ll eat Beef Wellington while having a pleasant conversation about politics and current events, and then the kids will put on a play…). When we have expectations like this, Leigh says, we’re programming into our psyche what we think is going to happen, and things rarely go as we have planned. Then, when our expectations are not met (perhaps Aunt Mildred can’t come at the last minute, or a bunch of your guests are vegetarian) “there’s a crash.”

This isn’t to say that we can’t make any plans for the future or have a positive outlook, but we have to be careful not to become inflexible. In contrast to defining specific expectations for a situation, Leigh says we can have a pleasant anticipation, and be open and available to what does emerge, while holding an intention for what we’d like (without defining all the details). Then, while we may anticipate and intend to have a loving, warm gathering, we are not attached to it going a specific way that we have fantasized ahead of time. We are open and flexible to reality as it happens, rather than fixated on a “perfect” scenario as we have pre-envisioned it.

The difference between inflexible expectations and, as Leigh puts it, a pleasant “expectancy” can make a huge difference. It can be the difference, in fact, between moving through life appreciating the moment as it comes and being devastated that, when the moment showed up, it didn’t look like our prescribed fantasy.

So, maybe I should rethink my expectations about Spring Break? ;-)

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