I always love a new year, the turning of a page, the hope for a future graced by the wisdom of the past. As we turn to 2020, like most of you, I am thinking about what wisdom can be applied to the decade that lay ahead.
This year my resolution is a bit unique. This year my goal is not to rid myself of extra pounds, or to make more money, or to be more present, or any of those typical goals we individually strive for. This year I’m going big. This year I’m working to rid myself of expectations.
Wait, what? Expectations? Why would you want to do that? What does that even mean? These are all logical responses… so let me explain.
I’ve gotten to thinking about how expectations truly rob us of our joy and gratitude. I’ve realized that the expectations we place on ourselves, on others, and even on life itself, are at the root of most of our suffering.
Think about something that recently upset you. Maybe someone said something unkind at the holidays, perhaps you didn’t have enough money to cover all the things you wanted to buy, maybe you’re frustrated because you have to work. Whatever the issue, the root of it is generally some expectation. “I expected her to be kind”, “I expected to have enough money”, “I expected not to have to work.” These tiny expectations add up to a ton of suffering.
Each of us has a tendency to size up the moments of our lives and apply a ton of expectations to them. We place expectations on others constantly. Some are reasonable, and some are just wishful, but we often look at others and think of all the things we expect from them. When they don’t deliver we feel a sense of disappointment.
More damaging than this is the expectations we place upon ourselves. We often apply a litany of demands for perfection upon our tired souls. We expect to be successful, loved endlessly, beautiful, always patient, always kind, or a million variations of ideal qualities we expect we should embody. When you eventually fail at any of these idealistic standards, you are disappointed. You feel like you don’t measure up.
With all the expectations we have for our lives, there isn’t enough room for grace. In order to live a happier 2020, wherever there is room for it, I plan to ditch my expectations and in their place I intend to place gratitude. I hope to continue to apply this for the rest of my life.
Whenever I happen upon a moment that I feel upset or frustrated, I am going to ask myself “is there an expectation at the root of this?” The next question I will ask is “is there any room for gratitude here? Want to try to join me? Here’s an example of how it works:
If you wish you were a few pounds smaller and you’re upset about your size. After confirming in your mind that “this is an expectation I am putting on myself right now.” Then think of ways to be grateful “I’m grateful that I’m striving to be a healthier person.” Or “I’m grateful that I’m in a position that this weight is my biggest challenge. I could have so many bigger problems.”
Another example would be, if you’re upset about how someone treated you. Think to yourself this is an expectation you have on them that’s out of your control. Instead think about things you’re grateful for like, “I’m grateful that I’m not like that.” Or “I’m grateful that they showed me who they really are.” Or even something as simple as “I’m grateful I don’t have to be that person all day…it’s hard enough even to be with them for a few moments.”
Even when it comes to a night on the town! Have you ever had a New Years Eve that was a total letdown? You thought it would be epic and it wound up being less than mediocre? Why were you disappointed? Expectations! This year choose to let the evening or the year ahead take you wherever it takes you…and look for reasons to be grateful along the way.
Whatever it is that you face, I believe that by understanding that much of our sadness is caused by the expectations we place upon experiences, we will find more grace. My hope is that by turning my expectations into gratitude I will find more personal peace.
The best part of this resolution is not rooted in expectation. No perfect adherence is required for success. The only requirement for this resolution is to strive to have less expectations. My gratitude in this resolution is possessing this new wisdom to to carry into the decade ahead.
I hope you choose to add this to your 2020 resolutions and turn to a page filled with peace in your heart and more grace toward the world around you. Oh, and of course, more kindness.
Cheers to the year ahead!
Join the kindness movement at www.kindleigh.org