Many of our woes come from expectations. We build elaborate scenarios in our heads detailing the potential outcomes of situations– how careers will work out, the longevity of relationships– all for comfort.
In a bizarre twist of irony that only real life could provide, rarely are our experiences fully synchronous with our expectations, leaving us quite uncomfortable.
Solution? Have no preconceived notion of the experience. Just live, act, and allow things to happen as they will. Like Kurt Vonnegut said, “So it goes.”
Here are ten strategies you can utilize nearly every day to tone down your expectations and live fuller, detached from the heavy anchor of outcomes.
1. No goals. This seems counterintuitive– if you have no goals, how can you achieve? Goals seem productive, but they’re merely constraints. Don’t set goals; live deliberately and with the fullest of intentions right now and you’ll act with such passion and vehemence that you won’t need them.
2. Tell the truth. Ultimate honesty is rooted in not trying to force an outcome. You don’t lie if you have no reason to alter someone’s reaction to what you’re saying.
3. Don’t judge. We judge people as another method of self-comfort. It’s easy to force another person into a pre-conceived place you’ve created for them in your mind, but it’s very selfish and will leave both of you disappointed.
4. Make time for someone else. Expect less for yourself, and more for others– doing so will often work in your favor regardless.
5. Relieve the people around you of blame. Doing so adds a neutral, calm element to what others will see as a negative situation.
6. Listen to someone intently for a long time, whether you think you care or not. You’ll give them an opportunity to vent and your empathy will improve in the process.
7. Meditation. The mother of all non-expectation activities.
8. Don’t teach, reveal. By this, what I mean is, instead of preaching to someone, give them a few words of wisdom and allow them to discover it for themselves. Old Chinese proverb: “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.”
9. Spend less. We spend money with expectations. Big-screen TV’s will relax us. A fancy meal at a 5-star restaurant will appease our lust for the high-class. These are such limited trains of thought. Attaching yourself to material objects is not the best (nor cheapest) route to happiness.
10. People watch. I don’t mean, “Hey, that guy looks ridiculous!” people watching, even though it’s tempting (especially where I live in NYC). Instead, watch people with an inherent sense of empathy. Your own ideas of your problems and your expectations will drift away when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes.