This is a guest post from Sarah Ellen Reiter – you can find her blog and her amazing artwork here.
An expectation is defined as being ‘a strong belief that something will happen or be the case.’ – thank you Oxford English Dictionary for that.
This is something that I’ve been thinking of quite a bit – having an expectation that something will happen, or something will work out as desired has tripped me up. What’s really tripped me up is placing an attachment on an outcome. My understanding is that there are two sides to expectations, those based on what has happened in the past and on what hasn’t (hope).
When placing an expectation on a situation or person – you are literally waiting for it to happen. This is where hope comes in, at first you had an expectation that x would happen. But, as life is life, x never came to fruition. Slowly but surely that expectation morphed into hope and you become even more attached. From personal experience, I gave my power away because I wanted an outcome to come true, I held onto any ‘positive’ signs, hoping things would change. They didn’t.
From my own experience – placing expectations and hopes on situations and people is a dangerous game. Let’s read that again – placing expectations and hopes on situations and people is a dangerous game.
The thing with expectations is that they’re based on what’s happened in the past. Don’t forget, the ego lives in the past it doesn’t understand the concept that there’s a possibility of an alternative outcome. A perfect example of this is when I visited Floatworks back in August. Chris, the owner very kindly offered me a free float (a float is a chamber that is filled with salt, salt as we know makes us float so we become weightless). One of the benefits of floating is that it helps to release tension. It had been almost a year since my last float – After my first float I experienced an intense release of tensions from my shoulders, they were sore for days later. Let’s just say at the time I was very stressed.
Fast forward to 2019, I found it hard to relax and enjoy the float. My mind was preoccupied with a worry that I would relive the same tension release as last time. The result of this worry meant that I was taken away from the present moment, not fully able to let go and enjoy this unique experience.
That is when I had that light bulb moment. Just because it happened in the past doesn’t mean it will happen again. That thought almost overwrote what the ego knows. That’s not to say the ego is ‘bad’ its role is to protect us. This is more to highlight that there are times where our mind will try and stop us from doing something, it’s in these moments where we should sit down and have a conversation, recognising our fears and worries but outlining that we have this and we can push through. (easier said than done at times)
However, when expectations are based on something that hasn’t happened and you want it to happen; you become emotionally attached to it as you cling on to every bit of hope that passes your way. In some cases, you created false hope out of what’s not even real– our minds are incredibly powerful and can create false realities from the smallest crumb. It almost takes over because you are frustrated your desired outcome hasn’t been achieved, yet you hope and hope and hope.
Let’s bring the concept of ‘hope’ into something more current. When I started SER Art, I had the expectation that I would be selling paintings and making some serious dosh, pretty much off the bat. In some respects, I feel this is a natural expectation to have – you want to make money so you can live.
The reality was much different. The trouble with hope is that you end up holding on longer than needs be. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of fairy tales and wishful thinking. And that is where I got stuck. For a long time, I had my head in the clouds. I become attached to an outcome and the longer I held on, the more frustrated, overwhelmed and stressed I became. This is the perfect breeding ground for the ego to come out full swing with all its negative talk – hello anxiety and the sense of impending doom.
In hindsight – what I should have done upon embarking on this venture was to let go of all expectations of money making, business growth and brand awareness. I clung onto these expecting results instantly. I found I focused on “Why I’m not making money” “it will work out because it has to” it really doesn’t have to work out, it will work out exactly as it needs to. I’ve come to accept that a business that I adore with all my heart maybe just a single chapter in the book of my life. And if it is – so be it. I’ve learnt a tremendous amount from it.
Now with this newfound insight and dusting the clouds off from around my head, I move forward knowing and recognising that I was in denial for so long. The power of letting go and not being attached to an outcome is a lesson I’m so pleased to have learnt.
Overall, I’ve learnt that there is a fine line between hope (linked to expectation) and optimism, (that the situation will reveal a desired result). I use the word ‘optimism’ because it holds no attachment to an outcome while the word ‘hope’ for me has been plagued with attachments. The key is to simply leave attachment at the door and trust that the true outcome will be reached regardless of the desired end result and that is a much more peaceful way to live.
On a side note: I would highly recommend trying floating if you would like to get deeper with your meditation – of course there are a number of added health benefits to floating have a look here if you wish (this is in no way sponsored or associated with Float Works – its just a recommendation!)
Thank you for reading – I hope you found some insight and knowledge from my experience.
You can find Sarah’s blog here.