Letting Go of Expectations

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. — Oprah Winfrey

I don’t normally quote Oprah. But I’ve been mulling over how to write this post for a long time, and my alarm clock app gives me a quote of the day, and gave me that gem this morning.

Back in college, when I was waiting tables, I met a lot of interesting people. That was one of the cool things about working in restaurants. Meeting people with life experiences so different from my own. During one of the many conversations I had with someone so different from me, I got a piece of advice that still sticks with me today. We were having a conversation about relationships, but the advice resonated with me about everything. 

I don’t remember what it was verbatim (it’s been over a decade since those days), but it was along the lines of not having any expectations in your relationships. Instead, appreciate each person you meet for who they are and what they can offer. When you get caught up in your own expectations, you have tunnel vision, and might miss out on a great person who offers things you didn’t even know you wanted. Or, outside of relationships, you could miss out on a great opportunity you weren’t aware of.

That whole idea – letting go of what you expect, so you are open to appreciate what life sends your way – really resonated with me. I feel like I kind of embraced that in all facets of life, not just my romantic life. I tried to truly let go of any expectations, and live my life with an open mind. And heart.

I had some general ideas about where I wanted my life to go – graduate from college, get a job that offered satisfaction in some way, and someday find a life partner. But I had no timeline, no bucket list, no “I want to do X thing by Y age,” no vision of who my life partner would be, or where I would live, etc. What mattered more to me was living life, experiencing the world, and finding happiness. In whatever shape those things took.

To be honest, lately I’ve been distracted by what I don’t have. I’ve been wrestling with some internal stuff, and while I thought I was leaving myself open, because it was all quite unexpected, I’ve also realized I’ve had tunnel vision with it. I got distracted by what I didn’t have, when what I already have is pretty damn wonderful.

Anyway, this post is kind of vague, but that’s the point. Moving forward, I’ll continue my mindset of “be happy, do fun things, see what I can of the world, make those around me feel loved, and give back in some way” and see what happens. I’ll continue to be open to what comes my way, but also make sure I never stop appreciating the awesomeness of what I already have. 

Screen shot 2014-01-19 at 5.03.40 PM

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21 Comments on “Letting Go of Expectations”

  1. These are really good pieces of advice. I went through that whole thing of feeling like my life wasn’t where I thought it should be when I turned 25 (which is insane – I was upset that I wasn’t married with kids by then?! Yikes!) and again when I was approaching 30. I was the only one of my friends at that time who was unmarried and didn’t have kids, and those were things that I thought “should” have happened by then, but really only because everyone else was doing it. But that’s just stupid, who cares what others are doing? Life had dealt me and Bob a lot of crap up for a couple years before that, so in the end I decided that I was just lucky to have him and was glad that we were both happy and healthy. Perspective, right?

    1. On a similar note, for once I saw a good quote on Pinterest – “Don’t base your decisions on the advice of those who don’t have to deal with the results.” Such as buying a house and/or having kids – they don’t have to deal with our budget, or raising said children.

        1. how about “whenever I damn well feel like it”? Or “as soon as I shake this meth addiction”? Or “we shouldn’t, we discovered we’re cousins”?

  2. Obviously, I love this. What do you think brought this on? For me, I really think it was from reading things on Facebook, Instagram and blogs. What helps is remembering that is only part of the story. And, I edited my Facebook/Blog reader and took any of the “look at me” fake people off.

    1. I have been wanting to write this whole “let go of expectations and leave yourself open” post for soooooo long, I could just never figure out how to say it the way I meant it. And I’ve recently been going through some stuff where I thought I was being open, but when I took a step back, I realized I was totally getting distracted with where I wanted (expected) the situation to go, instead of appreciating where I already was.

  3. I hope all is well. A very thought-provoking post. back when I was 30, I went through something similar. I was critical of me and my life, which honestly, was good. I wasnt thankful. It has taken me some time and some life events which have happened to me and to my friends to be happy. so….

    hugs and be happy.

  4. Great advice and great post! And, something that you definitely go back to from time to time, as you are now. When you need that “gain some perspective, yo!” slap in the face as we all tend to occasionally (some more than others).

    This is silly but the post made me think of this. Steven and I really enjoy seeing movies in the theater, but used to let ourselves be really disappointed if it didn’t live up to our expectations or hype… so we stopped having expectations and it’s always a fun time! If the movie stinks, at least we got out of the house.

    And yeah, hype. When everyone raves about something (or hates it) so much, it really makes me want to go in with NO expectations. I want to form my own opinion on things!

    1. Similarly, regarding movies, I hate people who try to figure out the plot twist or whatever before the movie ends. (Same with TV shows.) I like to just sit back and watch things unfold. This might explain why I’m one of the few people who generally liked M. Night Shyamalan. Also, I’m generally not that picky with movies … I just want to be entertained. It doesn’t have to be Oscar-worthy every time.

  5. You’re wise beyond your years. It generally takes 60+ years or $60K in therapy for people to get this…if they ever do. Shaking off those distractions that keep us from allowing is such a valuable exercise. Lovely post.

  6. I love that photo at the end – it feels fitting with the theme of the post, which I also love. I did a lot of similar thinking in my early-to-mid 20’s, when SO many people I knew were already buying homes and getting married. I think it caused me to set similar goals – “I want to be married by x age”, etc, when I didn’t really want it in the first place. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but yeah – I just love the concept of letting things unfold and waiting to see what happens! I need more of that.

  7. this was great post and the fact it was vague let your readers fill in what they might feel like they are missing. really appreciate this post and it was just what i needed today (yes, it is feb 24).. sorry, just moved and slow of catching up on blogs!

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