Within the first couple days of my college study-abroad experience, the program director asked each of us to share our expectations for the coming months. When my turn came, I shared that I had no particular expectations. With disbelief and frustration (granted, he was probably trying to glean clues to help match each of us well with host families), the director pressed me for my expectations, saying it’s impossible not to have a preconceived idea of what lies ahead.
In truth, not knowing what to expect, I had been prepared to remain open to whatever came my way. In my mind, my study-abroad experience held infinite possibilities: impromptu travels; a different culture; a host family that might be old or young, wealthy or not, worldly or commonplace. And I was eager and excited for the many new opportunities my future held.
Why to Let Go of Expectations
It’s simple: Holding onto expectations drags us into dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Letting go of expectations, on the other hand, allows us to see what’s happening in the moment and accept what’s in front of us. Deepak Chopra writes here that when we quit dwelling on expectations that don't come true, we experience greater enjoyment in our daily lives.
Letting go of expectations and trusting her intuition enabled artist and writer Christine Mason Miller to springboard from a rejected book proposal to a new, more inspired project. In this blog post Miller writes, “My career has been less about trying to force things through to some kind of preconceived conclusion, and more about trusting that my ideas will take on their own life in their own time.”
How to Let Go of Expections
- Increase your awareness. Be conscious of your expectations.
- When you notice you’re making an expectation, pause and tell yourself to let it go.
- See what is in front of you. Seek to understand and empathize without judging or creating expectations.
- Experience what happens in the moment. Choose your behavior and appropriate reaction to what comes before you. “You can’t control life, or others, but you can control how you react.”
- Accept things as they happen; accept people, including yourself, as they are.
- Recognize that each moment is full of opportunities that will open up to you when you see what’s in front of you and accept the moment without expectation or judgment.
Creating and tracking expectations takes personal energy that we can use more productively on self-awareness and mindfulness. Facing each day with an open mind can help us see and understand the world around us, including what's happening to us and what others are experiencing. Letting go of expectations can lead us to more thoughtful reactions to events and to others' behaviors.
Give it a try. Letting go of expectations just might make you happier!