I was once told I needed to have more “realistic expectations.” That’s hilarious. If I had “realistic” expectations I would be a whole different person and that person would not have lived the amazing life I’ve had so far. Apparently, if you set a really low bar you will avoid disappointment. But you also avoid life…and the experience of your own potential! Why would you want to shoot so low?
Instead, I aimed high and held on tight o the fact that I could get exactly what I wanted. I became a pro at being disappointed if I didn’t get exactly what I wanted. The grass always grew greener in someone else’s yard and I wanted that grass. Call it the theme of most of my life, looking for greener grass. The present moment was just a launch pad for the next, the bigger, the brighter and the different. No matter what job, what living situation, what relationship or what personal project was in front of me, I found so much to complain about in the present moment while I plotted for the next. The more dissatisfied I was with a person, place or thing, the more I found reasons to justify my feelings. I was luck to always find greener grass, lots of greener grass, but it always turned brown and withered soon after I got to it… time after time. What the hell could lead to so much dissatisfaction and disappointment?!
There’s a very simplistic yet illuminating article in Psychology Today entitled, The Perils of Intentions and Expectations that sheds a lot of light on perpetual dissatisfaction:
“In simple terms, a commitment to an intention is having the willingness to create a process that supports its achievement, as well as a determination to do your best. Often the intention is met, sometimes it isn’t. In the latter case, one would consider what might have been missing, learn from the experience, create a new intention, and– newly empowered– recommit to its attainment.
Attachment, on the other hand, follows a very different path. While the desire for the intention may be just as strong, the need to achieve it often interferes with doing so. Objectivity, flexibility, and creativity find themselves pushed to the wayside as fixation on attainment, self-validation, and perfection take over.”
For me, the ticket to having a happier life wasn’t to lower the bar, but, rather, to start accepting people and situations for what they are, apart from mythology and dramatization, and see all of their greatness— even though they were not exactly what I expected. Not everything matches the picture you have of it in your mind as you actually experience it, and that can be a very rude awakening for someone who is attached to outcomes matching what they see in their head. I thought I wanted to work at Vogue for years until I was finally, after full-court-press trying to get a job there, got an offer. It wasn’t what I expected. I said no. While I have no idea what my life would have been like had I said yes, I was just so focused on how little the experience matched my expectations that I walked away. I wonder if I would do the same now that I’m not as attached to things being exactly the way I wanted them to be?!
I get quite aggravated when people tell me to lower my expectations. Why should I?! Why should you?! We shouldn’t lower the bar, ever! It isn’t expectations that seem to create the trouble. Expectations help direct energy. The problem seems to lie in how you behave when things don’t match your expectations. Do you find the value in things even when they are not what you expected? Do you look for greener grass somewhere else, instantly? I’ve got no simple answers to giant questions, but I know for myself that disappointment can be a very bad habit. Attachment to a specific outcome seems to be the part that gets us into trouble. Living without deep attachment to a fixed outcome seems to leave room for lots of great things to happen, even if the result that was expected doesn’t roll out exactly planned. The unexpected can often be the most amazing!
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