I remember before I started traveling that I had high expectations towards rock climbing. I was really looking forward to spending time in one place climbing, continuing to the next spot to do it again. Also, visiting Patagonia was on top of my list together with my main goal to improve my Spanish. Before leaving these expectations and the following anticipation were huge. I could imagine this rock climbing lifestyle up to the cramps in my fingers, I could see the peaks in Patagonia, and I could feel the Spanish words I did not know yet, flow out of my mouth.
What Really Happened
I have been traveling for over four months now, and how different everything has been. I did not go rock climbing once yet, I learned Portuguese before I got to Spanish, and I am not sure if I will make it to Patagonia at all this trip. The irony here is, that when I wrote a first draft of this blog post, I was almost leaving for Patagonia. Two days before I left though, I twisted my knee and had to cancel that part of my trip. But, do I regret any of this? Not at all, instead I experienced a million other things that got me to where I am now, happy with whatever crosses my path. Leaving a big part of my life up to the unexpected.
The Origin of Expectations
When we take a step back though, it is interesting to see where these expectations originate. We create expectations in our mind by projecting the past into the future. Because, we cannot expect what we did not experience yet. Moreover, we can create expectations about expectations. Hereafter, we create an entirely imaginary world that is clear of any surprise but is far from reality.
When you realize this, you see how self limiting expectations can be. Where on the one hand they are a tool to invest “time” more efficiently, on the other hand they take energy by dividing our attention between the past and the future, leaving little for the present. Since we create the future by how we live in the present, living in expectation actually increases our chances on experiencing the same thing over and over.
Also, expectations are reinforced by our society. Contracts, appointments, clear trajectories in school, and at work allow us to know exactly what to expect before we experience it. Since we do not have to worry about what is going to come up next, we can turn off our brain, stop asking questions and do as we are being told.
Living in this expectation-based society, life might get a little boring. Luckily, there is a lot of entertainment around to thrill us nonetheless. Cinemas, music festivals, restaurants, streetplay, theater, and soccer matches are all there to be consumed. Of course, we expect everything to start on “time”. Otherwise, the day after we might be at work later than expected.
How Expectations Influence our Daily Lives
In our personal lifes we often let expectations direct our feelings aswell. Because, do we not expect our parents to know the way when we do not? Is not our partner supposed to be there when we are sad? And, should not our friends keep your secrets forever? Again, in this case it might be harder to see, but expectations in these situations can be limiting as well. When we stick to these expectations the chance is high that any given relationship will solely develop along preset lines.
Where betrayal of a friend would provoke disappointment and anger, it might actually be the moment he or she realizes it is possible to feel comfortable sharing his or her deepest feelings. And, what if you do not show up when your partner needs you most and he or she realizes an inner strength to deal with it alone. So much for expecting anything from your loved ones.
Living in this version of reality we are limiting our own view. Where there might be a lot of valuable lessons to learn, we usually stick to expecting what we experienced already. We end up either satisfied or disappointed with the outcome. This all seems so normal because everybody around us does the same. It has gone thus far, that we have created an entire construct of ethical and behavioral rules. We know exactly how we are supposed to behave before we enter any situation. The people that act differently are usually the ones we talk about when they are not there.
Putting Expectations into Perspective
Even though, certain expectations are useful, for example, when your mother tells you she will pick you up, it is useful to think that this is going to happen. Also, certain ethical and behavioural expectations are useful to live, at least in relative peace, next to each other.
However, I think we should stop valuing expectations as something important. When we do this, we can see and adept to what is happening in the present. Because, expectations by itself are not limiting, rather it is the level of importance we ascribe to them that limits us.
Personally, I still expect things to develop in certain ways. But the boundaries around these expectations are more transparant. In general the importance of expectations is on the decline in my life, and I intend to keep it going this way. Because, when expectations are not limiting our sight in the present, there is more energy to enjoy it. At the same time staying excited about everything that we do not know yet.