For the coming weekend, I had planned to make a trip to visit some friends. I counted down the days until Friday and my thoughts shifted into the future as I played out the various possible scenarios for the weekend’s activities. First I would drive here, then I would go there, then we would go to dinner, then we would go to a party, etc. I had mapped everything out and as my excitement grew, so did my expectations.
Perhaps Fate, masked as inclement weather, intervened to teach me a valuable lesson and to allow me to share this lesson with my readers as well. It is a lesson that often appears and reappears in our lives, but one we must learn over and over again.
My plans of fun and excitement changed with the weather- driving 3 hours in the snow is simply not on my to do list. Am I disappointed? Of course. But why? What is disappointment? Disappointment comes when we become attached to our expectations. These expectations can apply to ourselves, to others, to relationships, or even to events. We sometimes become so wrapped up in our expectations that we forget to be realistic. We depend on them and they become not only crutches, but blinders. In relationships, we sometimes fall not for a person, but for a person’s potential. With friends, we sometimes give and give, and get nothing in return, hoping that one day we will receive. And with ourselves, our expectations can be overwhelming: we must excel, we must marry by this age, we must drive this car, we must weigh this number, and act this way. Our expectations can support a false reality and shield us from what really is.
It is important to be honest in our expectations and to recognize that expectations exist in the field of the Future, which is to say that they are subject to change and may or may not ever come into fruition. If we constantly set standards that can never be met, we in turn face constant disappointment. We often admonish others for their faults, faults they do not realize they are even making. We expect them to act a certain way and we fail to recognize whether they are both willing and able to meet those expectations. The same is true for ourselves when we do not ‘succeed’. We beat ourselves up and become disappointed when we, the people who are the very creators of the expectations, cannot meet them.
So does this mean you cannot dream about the future and that you must expect less of yourself and others? Of course not. By all means, be a Romantic and live in the enchanted world of heightened emotion; dream not only a dream, but the greatest dream; use your imagination; create expectations of impossible proportions-but do not become attached to your expectations.
Detachment is key to the spiritual path. I do not wish to say that you should exercise indifference or not to care whether you meet your goals, but rather understand and accept that sometimes things change for unexplained reasons. If we practice detachment, the hurdles and detours in our path become less severe. And who knows where the detours may lead you? Perhaps an even greater dream will be realized. Be open to change- change is not bad, it is simply different and unfamiliar.
Today, ask yourself what your expectations are and whether you are attached to them. Potential is always promising, but it is never stagnant or fixed and will manifest itself in unexpected ways.