We all have expectations - of ourselves, of others, of situations/events. And that’s OK, because it is part of normal human behaviour. But sometimes, things do not quite turn out how we expected them to, and we feel sad, upset and disappointed.
The problem arises when we attach ourselves to the outcomes of our expectations. Although we do not always realise it, we have absolutely no control over the outcome of our actions, and life gives us multiple opportunities to discover that we are ultimately not in charge of what happens. Even when we plan and take all of the appropriate actions, we still may not get what we want!
Therefore, in order to create a happier, more peaceful existence, we need to let go of expectation and replace it with allowing. When we let go of our expectations about what should happen, we can simply enjoy life as it is.
Having too many expectations and judgements can hold us back and keep us stuck in a cycle of stress, exhaustion, and ill-health. But if we allow events to happen and be as they are, if we can let go of trying to control the outcome of our actions and accept the moment for how it is right now, there would be no way we could be upset by the outcome!
We may not like it, and it may not be what we planned for or expected, but accepting what is happening in the moment rather than attaching to “how it should be” can help us to relax, soften and feel more at ease. From this place, we can then more easily choose how we want to respond towards what is unfolding in front of us. Do we take a new action, or relax into what is? Or both?
Often what we need is not what we want to do, but it makes us better in the end and helps us live better lives.
Again as always, our yoga practice is a great way to prepare us for letting go of expectations in daily life.
Think about your idea of what Yoga practitioners (or Yoga itself) “should be”, and what the practice “should” do for you?
Am I less of a Yogi because I drink wine on weekends, and I am not a vegan? Am I expected to be able to do contortionist style poses in order to be a good Yoga practitioner? Is it expected of me to practice asana every single day, otherwise I cannot call myself a Yogi, let alone a Yoga instructor?
We need to practice letting go of our expectations of Yoga and of ourselves as Yoga practitioners, because these expectations cause us to develop an attachment to an idea of what being a “yogi” (or aspiring to be one) should look like.
But we are not less dedicated to our practice, or less affected by the transformation in our hearts and minds that our practice brings, if we do not fit a certain idea of what a “yogi” is, or what our yoga practice should do for us.
During yoga class, in each pose, instead of attaching ourselves to certain beliefs about what we are expecting our bodies should be able to do, we can choose to pause, notice, and say the mantra, “this is how it is right now.” Then we can take a moment to notice what happens to our breathing and how our body feels as we let go of controlling and accept the moment. From there, we can decide what to do next: do we want to stay and enjoy it more, back off, deepen, soften, adjust our breath, or come out?
When we let go of expectations and simply be in the moment, just as it is, we learn to be grateful for the opportunity to try new experiences.
Just to reiterate again though, do not confuse expecting less with lowering your values or goals in life. Setting goals is important. But simply be careful about attaching self-worth and happiness to the outcomes of your expectations. It is more important to continually grow emotionally and spiritually, and to realise that whatever the outcome, even if it is not what we expected, this growth is the true, ultimate goal in life.