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How to Let go of Your Expectations

Should you let go of your high expectations?

I tend to dream big and have great expectations for myself and for others. Normally this serves me well. However, it has also had incredible moments of disappointment and suffering.

If I am to live my life I am going to need to learn how and when to let go of my expectations. Here are some ideas on how you might let go of your expectations.

Start with impossibly high expectations

When you aim for the moon or the stars you are likely to fall short. Often however when you miss you will land on the mountaintop.

If I were to aim for a target that is close by and miss I will only gain little to no altitude. When you get to the mountaintop you might be disappointed because you missed.

But look around.

Far below you those that were aiming small can no longer even be seen. You know they are down there somewhere. The small dreams and hopes look like toys from here, like childish fantasies. 

A child dreams of being able to drive. That is easy. I remember one time when I had been leading through an incredibly hard season for my organization. I was tired in every meaning of the word.

High expectations break the loops of our lives

It was time for a vacation and I was relieved to have an opportunity to travel. We landed at an airport and got into a shuttle that took us to the parking lot where a car waited for us. 

I sat there in the shuttle feeling envious of the driver. All he had to do all day was drive a set loop and not hit anyone. I thought, “Wow, this guy has it pretty good.” I don’t know if this guy had bigger aspirations or not.

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However, if he did not then this loop would take up the rest of his life.  No challenge, no pain and no growth.  Yes, I was tired but the high expectations were keeping me from the insistent loop.

My life will take me to see airports and cities around the world. My destiny will enable me to positively impact thousands of lives.

Yes, sometimes these expectations are not met and that can be heartbreaking. Yet, those expectations are feeding my soul, and that is making all of the difference.

Stay involved

The mission seemed incredibly simple in my mind. I pondered the information I knew and made a call that would launch us in a totally different direction and that direction had limitless possibilities as far as I could see.

Calling in my leaders I gave them the vision and called them to get started.  Because of a high level of respect and a willingness to try anything they all jumped in and got things started.

What I did not know was that there were many other irons in the fire for my leadership team. I am a bundle of energy and I just keep going.

Little did I realize that my simple little mission was going to potentially crack the dam. Because I was involved and I routinely follow up I avoided the uncomfortable moment that would have happened in about two weeks when the mission failed.

Eating lunch with one of my leaders I discovered the flaw in my timing and was able to call it off before my heart had a chance to be broken by the failed expectations.  With time our expectations grow and they become more embedded in our psyche.

If you will take the time to get involved in those situations early and watch the progress regularly you might be able to let that expectation go before it becomes a catastrophic event.

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Talk about disappointments

Every person alive has expectations that will be unmet today. A husband will forget to pick up the milk, a son will forget to call his mom, and a wife will burn the dinner. Things happen. Many times we will allow this series of disappointed expectations to fester.

The wound becomes infected and causes us great harm. To let go of your expectations stop and talk about it with those who have fallen short of whatever your expectation was. Many years ago now, I had been deployed for about seven months and was preparing to return to my wife and daughter.

Nervousness and excitement filled my entire being as I waited for final orders to come through. It was then that the chaplain pulled me aside and recommended that I call home and discuss my expectations and hear the expectations of my family.

I expected a home-cooked meal, some alone time with my wife, and a complete night of rest.  My wife expected me to get going on a to-do list that had grown over the last seven months. We agreed the list could wait until day two.

Discussing the expectations made everything go smoothly on my return. Discussing them after the disappointment would have worked. We would have had to forgive one another if we wanted our marriage to go on.  However, talking beforehand made all of it much easier.

Be realistic

I hate reality!  But yes on most occasions you cannot be in two places at once.  Unless I break the laws of physics I won’t be able to make it to a meeting at seven o’clock when my meeting in a different town (35 miles away) gets out at 6:45 pm.

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If I have been a couch potato for the past twenty years it is unrealistic to think that tomorrow I will run a marathon and qualify for Boston. I can try, but I will undoubtedly be disappointed. Set some realistic expectations.

I will be able to walk around the block three times by this time next week. The truth is even that might be a stretch. However, it is more realistic and possible.  We must let go of impossible expectations.

Our bodies do get tired, our minds get overwhelmed, and we need to slow down.  Don’t waste your time beating yourself up over these moments where you have fallen short of your expectations let them go.

Ask yourself if this is your expectation

When I was in college there were several young men that I was friends with who were at the school because that is what their parents wanted. The school did not offer degrees in art and science which would have fit some of them better.

The school did not offer a certificate in automotive maintenance which would have spoken to the personality of a couple of the guys. They were simply trying to be good kids doing what mom and dad wanted for them.

Today almost 20 years later they are artists and scientists and mechanics. They let go of the expectation too and it is allowing them to be more true to themselves.

On this side of dreamland, you will be disappointed because expectations will be left undone.  Letting them go will give you strength and the integrity to push on and not give up.

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