I've often heard the advice, "let go of your expectations," and I've just as often had trouble with the idea.
Dictionary.com defines "expectations" as:
1. the act or the state of expecting: to wait in expectation.
2. the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.
3. an expectant mental attitude: a high pitch of expectation.
4. something expected; a thing looked forward to.
5. Often, expectations. a prospect of future good or profit: to have great expectations.
6. the degree of probability that something will occur: There is little expectation that he will come.
7. Statistics. mathematical expectation.
8. the state of being expected: a large sum of money in expectation.
I expect. I don't see a thing harmful in "the act or state of looking forward or anticipating." In fact, expectation seems a positive life affirming state of being. It sounds to me like hope. It is the attachment of expectation to a particular person or outcome that gets me into trouble. Even then, I find myself wanting to be careful about creating absolutes in my life.
I'm not a Christian, and I generally avoid tele-preachers, but I was surfing the TV one Sunday morning and landed on Joel Olsteen. Love him or hate him, I loved him that morning! He was talking about expecting good things, and then he went beyond that and spoke on preparing for those expectations to manifest. OK. Well. That sounded pretty darn interesting! He talked about manifesting, about the goodness of the Universe (or God), and about how we open or close ourselves off to the abundance of life (or God).
Expectation (hope) and preparation (an act of faith) work together to allow good things to flow into our lives. How many times do we block out that goodness because we do not allow ourselves to hope and prepare for abundance... for the good things in life?
Olsteen explained that when you expect company for dinner, you don't sit around and do nothing because maybe they won't come... you prepare. You clean your house; you purchase food and cook it and so on. You act on your expectation. You prepare for it, otherwise you are unprepared. We all know that preparation does not guarantee a perfectly envisioned outcome; you cannot guarantee that you will prepare the food perfectly or that Billy Bob will come over in a good mood, but you can "set the table of life" to allow good things to happen... and you can choose self-sabotage and even self-destruction.
What if the guests do not show up? Olsteen didn't go into this, but he did share that when his father was ill, he held onto his expectations for healing.... for good things to come. Holding or claiming that expectation kept him open to positive energy (the love of God and his family and friends). He did not close off in despair. He stayed open to possibilities. What he did not do was claim the outcome. He died. But he died in hope. Hope doesn’t destroy the spirit; it is attachment to one specific outcome that can drive us into our own spiritual grave. This man died alive. If guests do not arrive, plans are not in vain. The expectations and the preparation set the table of life in hope, preparing it for the next expectation that you decide to create… and for goodness that you cannot yet fathom that seeks a life that is able to acknowledge it and welcome it. And if the table is set in hope, with joy, and without attachment to the expected outcome, the mere act of setting it is fulfilling... the table was set to enjoy life now, in action, as it unfolds.
I expect good things in regard to my children and their learning. I even expect, hope, and anticipate certain outcomes. I've changed those expected outcomes over the years. I've changed them as I have learned more about life, my children and even myself. For example, I let go of learning objectives defined by the school system. I let go of the outcome of my daughter learning to read by age 8. Every now and then, I get sucked in and find my children’s and my own emotional, spiritual, and even physical health request that I let go of a specific outcome and in turn focus on creating new and healthier, more compassionate and realistic expectations that open up a field of outcome possibilities.
Today, I try to focus on expectations that affirm life, individuality, self-direction, empowerment, esteem. I do expect my children to be prepared for life on their own as adults, but I define that relative to their quality of life today. I expect them to be able to take care of themselves and to enhance life on this earth by their existence, by the fact that they are productively being authentically who they are today. I’m expecting their today to set the table for their future, and I expect that their personal success means success for all of us.
My children did not learn about Betsy Ross in kindergarten as they were supposed to. They did not attend kindergarten, and I did not teach them "kindergarten." We lived our lives together as mom and 5 year olds, and I indulged, supported, enabled their natural born curiosity and need to know themselves as children in the world. As they have grown older, I have taken them more into the world, and they have taken me more into the world; we have built a symbiotic learning relationship with each other. They have begun to naturally branch out into the world without me. They are becoming more self-sufficient and empowered as the clock moves time away from us. The outcome has been a collaborative parent child relationship built on our reality and our ideals. My children do not know authority figures as I did as a child, and as I still do as an adult. My expectation, my hope, my anticipation is that they hold themselves as the authorities of their own lives and use the expertise of others as they see the need. I am preparing them for a life of cooperation, self-affirmation, self-direction, empowerment, esteem.
What they do with that preparation, I cannot control. I can set my expectations, and I can prepare for them and with them. I can change my expectations and preparations as I learn what my children, life, and my life need from me. I can model this behavior for them. That’s all. And no matter what expectations you choose and no matter how you prepare for your children to manifest, you cannot control the outcome, either. Choose your expectations wisely, and be willing to change them midstream. Life does not have to be a rigid plan that we live out effectively or not, come hell or high water. Life requires vision, wisdom, and flexibility. Life requires justice, hope, and respect for each individual form of life. Children need adults to provide a childhood that nurtures and enables life.
Robin considers herself a budding naturalist and conservationist and a spiritual eclectic who enjoys celebrating the wheel of the year with her own unique blend of earth-centered world traditions.