Many of us expect things to happen in the way we want them to. We all have a picture in our mind about how things should turn out and how things should be.
Invariably, however, things never do turn out as expected. Sometimes that’s a good thing when we receive unforeseen good fortune. More often than not it’s a bad thing, in our heads anyway. The result is pain.
We’re not suggesting here that it’s pointless planning for things to happen or to manage change. Everything we do has to be shaped with a destination in mind. In my previous life as an architect, my whole career was to do with planning for change and also, incidentally managing expectation.
No, here we are talking about the expectation that is inside your head!
This is the expectation that always links to some imagined ideal future. Your mind becomes ‘locked’ into a cycle of wants and desires; it’s the basis of personal narrative that plays over and over. We expect to be happy, we expect to be successful, we expect to have a good job and a nice house, we expect certain people to act in a certain way. We are told from an early age to ‘expect rather than accept’. This limiting mindset is further reinforced through advertising as we are told, ‘you are unhappy now, but expect to buy this car and you will be happy’.
But with expectation comes the constant stress of continued mental judgement and evaluation as things don’t go according to plan. You begin to see things as either good or bad, pleasant or painful, lovable or hateful and so on. You begin to judge everything because invariably what happens doesn’t match the world in your head. And let’s face it, expectation is pretty much tied in with selfish motives of personal gain and loss. Expectation is really all about ‘me first’, and that’s not helpful to anyone.
The stress created by expectation holds us tight in a vicious circle of experience. So the more we expect the more we pin ourselves to a wheel of stress, anxiety and so on. We struggle, as everyday we are pulling ourselves away from living a life of real creativity and achievement.
And it gets worse. It might sound paradoxical but expectation actually gets in the way of achievement. You want things to go well, particularly if you are working to achieve something worthwhile. We can exceed expectations by recognising when our own expectations are limiting. In his Inner Game series Timothy Gallwey defined an algorithm for recognising this limiting factor:
Performance = potential – interference
Meaning that we all have the ability to be good and to succeed. But only when we learn to get out of the way. The interference factor is that version of ‘You’ shaped by your expectations.
Gallwey’s algorithm is just another way of describing the practice and application of the technique of modern meditation. This is exactly what we teach at beanddo. With practice, you begin to recognise how your own limited sense of being present is a source for stress and frustration. Let go, stay in the present. You will know the joy of working and you will thrive. We promise!
To work without expectation might seem impossible, but with practice it’s liberating. And after a while you notice that you needn’t have wasted your time and energy worrying about how things might turn out for you.
So instead of spending your time thinking about the life you expect to lead, why not live the life you are leading right here, right now? You might just find it’s already way beyond expectation.