One Sea Change member wrote to ask me, regarding tossing out expectations:
“Do you really think we should have NO expectations? You are right, some expectations I have to toss into the ocean. On the other hand, I think we should have some kind of expectations and instead deal with the reaction. What do you think?”
That’s a great question!
My answer is that there is no way to have no expectations. We naturally have those expectations. We can’t stop having them. And it probably wouldn’t be useful to let go of all of them, as sometimes they can be useful to function in our daily lives. I can’t think of a good example right now, but I’m sure there are some good ones.
The problem is that many expectations are harmful:
- If you expect someone to behave a certain way and they behave how they want, you’ll be frustrated.
- If you expect things to turn out a certain way and they don’t, you’ll be upset or disappointed.
- If you expect yourself to be perfect and you (of course) aren’t, you’ll be frustrated with yourself.
And so on.
The key for us is to see these expectations, and see whether they’re useful or harmful. When we find ourselves upset or frustrated, angry or disappointed, afraid or irritated … those are signs that we have harmful expectations.
We need to toss those into the ocean, because we don’t really need them.
The Sea Change member who wrote to me also asked about having expectations and dealing with the reactions. He gave two good examples:
- You ask a friend to give you a bit of his chocolate. If he does, that’s fine. If he doesn’t, that’s fine too, because it was just a request and not a command.
- You are doing research and you set up an experiment, and you expect Outcome A. If the experiment results in Outcome A, you’ve moved a step further in your research. If it isn’t Outcome A, you’ve learned something new.
So what he’s saying is it’s not the expectation, but being OK with either outcome. This is correct — he has an expectation, but he holds very loosely to it. It’s OK if his expectations aren’t met, because he’s actually OK with either outcome.
This is a great illustration of how to work with expectations that will inevitably arise — you can have them, but if they’re causing you suffering (frustration, anger, sadness, etc.), then you’re too attached to them. Toss them into the ocean to become less attached.
You don’t have to obliterate all possible expectations — just don’t become attached to them. Let them drift out to sea.