A friend recently declared he wanted to cultivate one thought process which he believed will give him peace – to have no expectations. A lofty and difficult goal. It reminded me of my trials with it. I had in the past and many times since then wanted to make this a part of my life but faltered. It’s now just a figment in my mind that keeps popping up whenever I expect and keep getting disappointed.
There are two ways of looking at expectations. One, the Oriental or the Buddhist or the Zen way and two, the Western way.
The Oriental way:
Expecting from others means either you want them to do something they are not doing now or be somebody they are not now. This means you have been judging them against a standard you have in mind and they are somehow lacking. Which means you are dissatisfied with them and are not happy with them now. By not accepting them as they are and wanting them to be something more/different from they are now, you have brought forth dissatisfaction in the current state. Dissatisfaction causes sorrow. Sorrow causes anger. Anger causes spoilt relationships. In the end, expectations ruin relationships.
You might’ve read this or some variation of this on the internet many times, “as a kid you thought you’ll be happy when you goto college, when in college you think you’ll be happy when you get a job, when you get a job you think you’ll be happy when you get married, then you think having kids will make you happy, then you think getting retired will make you happy”. After that what? When were you ever fully happy?
Expectations take you out of the now, always. ‘I’ll be happy when he changes, I’ll be happy when I get that promotion, I’ll be happy when I take that vacation, I’ll be happy when..’ The cycle is ever-present. When you are craving for something you do not have now, you are saying this moment is insufficient. That you need ‘more’ from life. That you don’t have ‘enough’ now. So, why expect? Why always be in the cycle of ‘I need that or this to be happy? Just decide wherever you are, whomever you are, you are enough. The ‘now’ is all we have all through our life so let’s accept however it is and be happy.
The Western way:
You only live once, make it large. Work hard, party harder. Fight for what you want, be the person you want to be, realise your full potential. Be ambitious, enjoy the world, win it, conquer it. Make things happen. Be a go getter. Expect more out of yourself, expect more out of others, expect more out of life.
Yes, this is our typical life.
I want that next promotion, that dress, that iPhone, that gold necklace, that car, that vacation, and the list goes. What’s wrong in wanting more? What’s wrong in expecting more? In working towards creating a better life? Nothing. The problem comes when you want to not have expectations in a life style fuelled by wants.
Having no expectations is a beautiful way to live, but, we live in a world that runs on ambition. For ‘not having expectations’ to work, we cannot choose where to implement it and to what extent we want to implement it. We have to go all in. The only way we can make it work is by deciding to ‘want’ less.