Module Plan: Toss Your Expectations Into the Ocean

By Leo Babauta

In the Module Overview, we not only talked about why we get frustrations (and more), but what the solution is and what we’ll be learning in this module.

But before we begin, let me re-emphasize what I said in the Overview about mindset …

Advanced Habit Mindset

This is an advanced habit module, because it’s about a thinking habit rather than a simple physical habit. Beginner habits are hard enough, but advanced habits require more focus and a different mindset to be successful.

To be successful at this habit, you’ll have to redefine your idea of success. Success here isn’t “doing the habit perfectly every day” … but rather “learning from the attempt to do the habit every day”. That means you’ll fail at the habit, but as long as you keep trying, you’ll learn.

So let go of expectations of how this habit will change your life, of how peaceful you’ll be, of how successful you’ll be … and just do the habit, in the moment.

This is a great lesson on habits, and I think it’ll be incredibly useful in the long term.

Now let’s get to the plan!

The Plan

Each day, we’re going to start with a simple physical practice, to anchor our thinking habit. But each week, we’ll expand the thinking habit into other areas of our lives.

Again, this is an advanced habit, so you’ll have to let go of the expectation of simplicity. It’s not as simple as “do yoga for 5 minutes every morning”. But it is rewarding.

Here’s the plan:

Week 1
The first week, simply form the habit of reflecting on your expectations:

  1. The Daily Reflection: Every evening before bed (you can do this in the morning instead, if that works better), spend 5 minutes in reflection about your expectations.
  2. Your trigger will be going to bed … before you go to sleep, spend a few minutes reflecting on what expectations you had during the day.
  3. Reflect on what effect these expectations had on you. Were they helpful? Did they cause frustration or stress or procrastination? We’ll talk more about how to notice your expectations in a future article, but for now, just spend a few minutes reflecting. You might also picture yourself gathering these expectations and tossing them into the ocean, watching them float away.

That’s it. A simple practice for a few minutes each evening (or morning). Set reminders in the evening so you don’t forget, including putting a reminder note near your bed. Have an accountability group so you will report to them about how you’re doing with your practice.

Week 2
This week, we’ll expand beyond the daily practice:

  1. Continue your daily reflection. This is the anchor, and you’ll do it each day for the rest of the month. It’s helpful because you’ll see where you went wrong, what you did right, and set your intention for the next day. Using this reflection will help you learn and get better at the habit over time.
  2. Expand your mindfulness. Each day, try to remember to see your expectations throughout the day, not just at the end. As you go through the day, see the expectations come up, see their effect on you. You don’t have to do anything with them — just notice them.
  3. Have visual reminders throughout your home and workspace, so you’ll be better at remembering. Consider putting little stones in various places, or notes, or wearing a rubber band or bracelet.

This week is fairly simple as well … just continue the reflections, and expand your awareness of the expectations throughout the day. Practicing this awareness might be harder than you think, but with practice you’ll get better at it.

Week 3
This third week, we’ll practice letting go of the expectations in the moment.

  1. Continue your daily reflection. By now you’ll be pretty good at the daily reflection, but don’t get complacent. It’s easy to think that this session doesn’t matter, but it does, because without it the habit starts to fall apart.
  2. Continue your mindfulness of expectations throughout the day. You’ll be getting better at it this week with continued practice — if you forget for a day, put up new reminders so you’ll remember tomorrow.
  3. When you notice an expectation, toss it into the ocean. Visualize the expectation as handful of leaves, or perhaps some sticks. You’re carrying them around, but let’s try tossing them into the ocean and watching them float away. You’re free of them, cleansed by the ocean.
  4. Now try living the next few moments without them. The expectations might come back, but for now, let’s just act. Just do. Just be in the moment. Just see the reality around you, free of the lens of expectations, just as it is. This takes some practice … I’ll write more about this in the coming weeks.

This is a trickier week, because letting go of expectations and living without them isn’t something we’re used to. You’ll enjoy it.

Week 4
This final week, we’ll cement our habit with further practice, and add some appreciation and gratitude to the mix.

  1. Continue your daily reflection. Keep it going!
  2. Continue your mindfulness of expectations throughout the day. By now, you should be much better at this awareness.
  3. When you notice an expectation, toss it into the ocean. Continue with this visualization practice.
  4. Now try living the next few moments without them. This takes a lot of practice, but this week you may really start to get it.
  5. Add some appreciation. See the moment for what it really is, not how it measures up against your expectations. See people for who they actually are, not who you want them to be. And appreciate life, and people, and yourself, for the goodness that is there. Appreciate all qualities, not just the ones you’d wish for. This is an amazing practice.

If you stick to this plan, which might not be easy, I think you’ll find this to be a transformative practice.

May this month’s journey be filled with curiosity and learning.