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Letting Go of Expectations


Let Go…or Be Dragged.   –Unknown

You think that it should happen. You hope that it will. You want it to be so. While setting intentions is an important step in accomplishing goals, sometimes no matter how hard we try—thinking, hoping, and wanting something cannot change the outcome of a given situation. Our expectations set the stakes very high, and then we feel powerless over them if/when they do not come to fruition. Writer David Foster Wallace once summed up his own tendency to cling to expectations with this statement: “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.”

Letting go is a tough lesson for most people to learn. But mastering this skill not only frees us up to infinite (and often times, previously unconsidered) possibilities, it also can significantly reduce stress, resentment, and worry.

Are you clinging to expectations of yourself, or others? Here are three simple ways that can help you let go:

1) Think in terms of “won’t” rather than “can’t.” It’s a simple shift in vocabulary (and mindset) but when we admit that we choose not to do something rather than being unable to do it, we reclaim our power. For example, I won’t stop worrying about my job; I won’t finish that project on time (but I can). See? Now, you can make a choice about your behavior.

2) Change your expectations of others. We have heard many times that we cannot control other people’s thoughts, feelings, actions, or words; we can control only how we respond to them. Make an honest effort not to take things personally and instead, focus simply on being the best that you can be. Remind yourself that the other person’s behavior is a reflection of who they are, not a reflection of who you are.

3) Reward yourself for progress, not perfection. Baby steps do add up and in the process, will make you feel like you’re accomplishing your goals. You’ll also start to develop a skill set that you can build on. Let’s say you’re finding it difficult letting go of expectations regarding your adult child; practice first by doing so with an employee and it will get easier.

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