When we expect things to go a particular way, we are fast forwarding from beginning to end without experiencing the good stuff, yes and the tough stuff, in between.
This is so not good. Not only will your expectations come up short and leave you feeling disappointed, but the process will be void of meaning – and that’s the stuff that really colors in the lines of our lives.
Meaning comes with experience
Meaning is in the experience, not the outcome. Things become special and meaningful when we participate and notice and experience challenges and possibility along the way. To have everything hanging on the end result – on a single expectation — means you strip the experience of meaning altogether.
Imagine running a marathon (I know it’s nearly impossible for me to think about too). Say that, you sprint out to the front right away, keep at a 5 minute pace for the entire 26 miles and no other competitor even comes close to you, you win easily without pain or stress. Good for you. You did exactly what you expected to do now you’re on to the next thing.
But in real life, you trained a bunch to run that race. You learned different ways of nourishing and strengthening your body. You fought through cramps and pain to finish the race in four hours and by golly, you did it. Now, you know you can do anything. In this case, the meaning is not at the finish line that you expected to cross, it’s in the steps and struggle you took to get there.
Course there are things we desire. Goals we work for and marks we want to meet in our lives, primarily because we want to connect to something bigger, or have a peak experience. That’s all good. Desiring something, working toward something, isn’t a bad thing at all. But, attaching to only one, single, outcome – allowing for only one result to make you feel successful – will limit that experience. Instead, let loose a little. Invest in the process and open to any result. You’ll be surprised and inspired by all that shows up.
Here are some ways to do it:
Give up outcomes. Invest in the process. Be mindful of what you’re doing and enjoy the experience along the way. In my case, that meant throwing myself into the process of writing a book without concern over whether it would become a bestseller.
Set a soft mark. Know what you’d like to experience, but be open to a variety of outcomes. It’s great to set goals. If you want to run a marathon, it’s fine to want to finish. But don’t be so stringent in your goal that you limit other possibilities. So, for example, you may decide you want to learn how to converse in Spanish. You might learn the language quickly, in a month. Or it could take years. But, either way, when you can find your way to the bathroom by using the new language you learned, you’ll be a success in more ways than one. If you set some arbitrary, constraint like “I must learn Spanish in 21 days” you may feel less than satisfied and prone to fussiness and bad behavior, if it actually takes two months.
Invest in the process. The power is in the process – and that is the part that is linked to you. I decided how to write the book. It’s up to you how you train for the marathon or prepare for the exam, or start the new business so create an interesting, growth-oriented experience and enjoy it. Then you feel excited and successful all along the way, even before the objective is completed.
The true success of a marriage, for example, doesn’t come down to how great your wedding was, or whether you reached your Golden Anniversary, but in how you spent all those years together. Be engaged in your life. Open to the experiences along the way. That way you’ll have benefited big time while pursuing your goals no matter what the outcome is.
Accept all of it. Not everything is going to go the way you’d like. So what. You don’t have to judge it, or get fired up about it. You can just acknowledge the way things turned out and move on. Don’t get caught up in what might have been. Think of this like opening a gift. You’ll be happy with whatever is inside, because you are just so dang pleased that someone gave you a gift to begin with.
Mind your own business. Pay attention to your behavior instead of expecting others to behave a certain way. Do what makes you feel right in the world. Don’t do something expecting others to act a particular way. Don’t send a gift expecting a thank you card – right? Unless, of course you want to amp up your stress and feel freaked out all the time. Then, by all means, set arbitrary expectations for others and watch to see if they are met.
When we loosen up a bit on our Big Life Plan, we make room for it to expand and move and bring even greater things in. Do this and I promise you, you’ll get more than you ever expected.
Photo by: Stock.xchng