“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
-Alexander Graham Bell
On December 4, 2014, I posted the article Experimentation and asked my readers to “stay tuned” as I experimented with letting go of expectations without disregard to responsibilities or boundaries. Going with the flow without attaching to a particular outcome each day has been interesting and, on some days, very challenging.
Most days it is easy to let go of what I want the day or my life to look like. With lots of practice and “do-overs”, here is what I have figured out, so far:
- Letting go of unreasonable or unrealistic expectations of self.
In recent years, I have become more comfortable with doing things “my way”. It is so easy to succumb to peer or societal pressure, but I have made a conscious choice to stop trying to live up to other’s expectations and/or adopt other’s expectations as my own. While Charlie likes pleasing others, he does not change or compromise his personality to do so. Likewise, I have learned to honor, with confidence, my own healthy values of who I want to be and how I want to behave. These include:
- Take care of myself in order to give fully of myself
- Open my heart
- Decide for myself what is right and what is wrong for me (aka boundaries)
- Trust and follow my intuition
This list has become my guiding compass. Charlie has modeled how to just be me and I have become mindful of not bending to pressure to act in such a way that goes against the above values or what I feel is right for me. As a result, it has become easier to say “no”.
- Keep an awareness of gratitude
It is too easy to get caught up with the Evil Gremlin Thoughts throughout the day. When I follow Charlie’s examples of staying in the moment, it helps to ease the inner chatter of “should”, “should nots” and other negative dialogue. Unhelpful and empty expectations can also be chased away by focusing on gratitude, what is going right, accepting what I can control (not the easiest to practice), and maintaining my personal power.
- Be patient and gentle
Some expectations are harder to let go of than others. With anticipation, Charlie will lay by my feet as I dress in the morning with the hope that I might put on my hiking clothes. When he notices that I am putting on the “leave me at home all day” clothes, he sighs deeply and sulks out of the room. However, it seems that no matter how often he is “left behind” he continues to wake every day with the hope that we will go hiking or take some grand adventure. Everyday is a new day and, after all, he does make an adventure out of chasing the cat on a regular basis.
Likewise, I have life goals that I work toward on a consistent basis and have expectations of meeting these goals in some form or another. When road blocks emerge, disappointment and other strong emotions (I’ve been known to tantrum on occasion) will usually result in a sulking mood for a few days. Similar to Charlie, I do keep my hope of someday accomplishing my goals and dreams but I have learned to let go of what I think the outcome should look like. Attaching to a specific outcome or vision generally invites disappointment, resentment, negative thoughts, anxiety and/or depression. Instead I have learned to be curious about the experience along the journey. One door may close, but another door opens to, very often, offer better results or more fun. As Alexander Graham Bell pointed out, we never know what lies on the other side of the door.
Each of these points requires awareness and daily practice. Occasionally, I still get hijacked by the Evil Gremlin Thoughts, attachments to outcomes, and trying to please others. Now I recognize those for what they are and quickly move past these barriers to look for the newly opened door.