I really enjoyed math and science because of the formulae and equations. If this…then that.” I loved having my expectations fulfilled whenever I plugged in the correct numbers or molecular structure to get a single, definite, and absolute answer at the end of the equation. “If this….then that.”
I was drilled and trained for 16 years in school to think this way, which piggy-backed onto what I learned at home. For example if I cried as an infant, then my mother would feed me. If I threw a toddler tantrum, then my parents would pay attention to me. If I earned good grades in school, then I would receive validation and praise. If I fell in love, then I would enjoy intimacy and comfort. My parents also taught the kind of ethics based on “If this…then that.” We believed that if we were good and kind to others, they would be good and kind to us.
I discovered in my past professional life that there are serious limits to “if this…then that” thinking. I used to believe that if I followed a given formula for behavior, if I kept the rules, taught the dogma, kept away from political intrigue, was candid and thoughtful, and fulfilled others’ needs then I would be rewarded with opportunities to further my skills and service. Not so much!
My mentor James Dickson recently gave me some tough marching orders: “Let go of all Expectation. All of it. Every bit of it. Once you let go of it, you aren’t there yet. Try again to let go of your expectations. What you expect your life to be, how you expect to be treated, the inalienable rights you expect to have and exercise. You could spend a lot of time here.” Expectation is the enemy of integrity and compassion (see previous posts). I am spending a lot of time with this challenge as I rework my entire foundation for living.
Now I feel as if am free-floating with nothing to grab onto. I have no external formulae to follow, no numbers to insert, no familiar “molecular structure” to my life. I need to let go the “if this…then that” perspective, to live in the moment and for the moment, without carrying around stories of how my life “should” be. I have to fight the seduction of assumptions concerning my place in the world and the kind of influence I think I ought to have.
This line of thinking has spawned further clarity. I have begun to recognize the difference between expectation and dreams, desires and hopes. Without dreams I would despair. Without desires I would flounder aimlessly. Without hope I would go into a catatonic state, refusing to risk love and life. And I now know that expectation serves no good purpose.
Dreams, desires and hopes open my mind and heart to possibilities, to “what might be”. They defy the “if this…then that” perspective. Expectation, on the other hand, closes my mind and heart as it proclaims “what should be” in the world I create for myself. It traps me into thinking that there are formulae for life or predictable consequences for all actions. In fact, expectation causes me to retreat into a narcissistic, status-driven, controlling, objectifying, judging, and resentful little life, where I go into auto-pilot to manipulate people and events to fulfill my dreams, desires, and hopes.
It is an illusion to think that life is ever going “my way.” As I let go of expectation Life invites me to live on its own terms and to discover the real dreams, desires and hopes that lay deep within my heart and have yet to emerge in to my consciousness. So I ask you dear readers: How has expectation entrapped you?
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