When I am teaching a yoga class to veterans one of the most important things I say to them is “let go of any expectations you have for this class, let go of how you might feel during or after, and let go of what you think yoga is.”
This is not an easy thing to do. Letting go of an expectation can be extremely powerful experience. If you are expecting to have this amazing feeling afterward, or that your pain and discomfort will go away and it doesn’t, then you might be less likely to go to another class. This same scenario can be applied to just about everything.
Expectations are in everything we do in our life, think about it, what you eat, your relationships with others, work, money, even vacations. Yes, we have an expectation for a vacation don’t we? Why do we have an expectation for everything? Why can’t we just go through life taking each moment for what it is and then move to the next? Why is an expectation so important to our lives? What happens if the expectation is not fulfilled, how does that make us feel?
Goals, however, are not expectations so don’t go ditching your goals in life, this may though, might have you changing what you define as goals that are really just expectations.
The most perfect example I can think of and use a lot to describe this is food. Every time we are about to eat something or cook something we have an expectation that it needs to taste as a 5-star chef made it, right? If it doesn’t then we either throw it away, take it back to the counter unsatisfied, write a bad yelp review, never eat it again (which means we don’t save it for leftovers), or bash ourselves (I’m never cooking again, I am just terrible at it). So what would happen if you didn't have those thoughts and each meal was a surprise? Yes, occasionally you would eat something that isn’t a 5-star meal, but if it's not going to make you sick then why not still eat it. The world isn’t going to end because one meal you ate in your life wasn’t the best thing ever. So what does this give us? This gives you the confidence to cook more, experiment and try new things or even taste new foods. Taking this back to other things in our life, if we do not anticipate a feeling, then we might feel something we have never felt before!
All of these expectations are negatively affecting our happiness. When you expect a friend, family member, or significant other to do something and they don’t. You might feel disappointed or angry, even sadness. When those emotions are present than happiness isn’t. This isn’t easy and even I still have some expectations, yet when something doesn’t end up giving me what I expected then I let it go. My yoga practice has taught me that and it took a lot of practice. So maybe we can just start with food, and then we can move towards the other more difficult things.
In conclusion, don’t let this diminish your goals or standards that you have, just remove the expectation of how they will make you feel. Don’t allow your feelings and emotions to control your response, and live life at the moment!
P.S. When you go on a vacation, actually take a vacation from thought and enjoy yourself!