Let Go of Expectations
‘Act without expectations.’ ~Lao Tzu
How much of your stress, frustration, disappointment, anger,
irritation, foul mood stems from one little thing?
Almost all of it comes from your expectations, and, when
things (inevitably) don’t turn out as we expect, from wishing things
We build these expectations in our heads of what other people
should do, what our lives should be like or look like, how other
drivers should behave . . . and yet it’s all fantasy. It’s not real.
And when reality doesn’t meet our fantasy, we wish the world
Here’s a simple solution:
Take your expectations and throw them in the ocean.
Picture all the expectations you have for yourself, your life, your
spouse, your kids, your coworkers, your job, the world. Take them
from inside of you and toss them in the ocean. A river or lake will
What happens to them? They float. They’re carried around by
waves. The current takes them out, and they drift away. Let them
be washed away by the cleansing waters, and let them go.
Now live your life without them.
What’s a life without expectations like? You accept reality as it
is, and people as they are, without trying to force people into the
containers that you have created for them. You see things as they
are. You don’t need to be disappointed or frustrated or angry—or if
you are, you accept it, and then let it go.
That’s not to say that you never act—you can act in a way
that’s in accordance with your values and influence the world, but
never have an expectation of how the world will react to your actions.
If you do something good, you won’t expect praise or appreciation.
Let those expectations of reward and praise float away with
the waves. Do good because you love doing good, and expect nothing
Pay attention to your thoughts. Don’t beat yourself up if you
have expectations. Just see them. Then toss them in the ocean.
Notice if you start to wish things weren’t the way they are. If
you wish someone else didn’t do something, notice that. You have
expectations, and you wish people or the world could meet them
instead of doing what they actually do. Toss those wishes in the
ocean too. Now accept things, and move on.
Let the waters of the world cleanse us, and let us walk lightly in
a world that is already wonderful without our fantasies
Go With The Flow
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao-Tzu
No matter how much structure we create in our lives, no matter how many good habits we build, there will always be things that we cannot control — and if we let them, these things can be a huge source of anger, frustration and stress.
The simple solution: learn to go with the flow.
“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
For example, let’s say you’ve created the perfect peaceful morning routine. You’ve structured your mornings so that you do things that bring you calm and happiness. And then a water pipe bursts in your bathroom and you spend a stressful morning trying to clean up the mess and get the pipe fixed.
You get angry. You are disappointed, because you didn’t get to do your morning routine. You are stressed from all these changes to what you’re used to. It ruins your day because you are frustrated for the rest of the day.
Not the best way to handle things, is it? And yet if we are honest, most of us have problems like this, with things that disrupt how we like things, with people who change what we are used to, with life when it doesn’t go the way we want it to go.
Go with the flow.
What is going with the flow? It’s rolling with the punches. It’s accepting change without getting angry or frustrated. It’s taking what life gives you, rather than trying to mold life to be exactly as you want it to be.
“Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” – Chuang Tzu