Living Life Without Expectations

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For my new series on expectations, click here

My cousin over at in progress recently posted some questions about expectations… living with them, living without them, and all the frustrations that go along with a disappointment because of an unmet expectation. This issue occasionally pops up in my life in various forms, and I’ve never taken the time to really work out my feelings on the subject. So here I go. We’ll see what comes out.

I googled “Living Life Without Expectations” and found the following quotes worth repeating here:

I settled for living life without expectations and often without fulfillment.Then this…

Through the weekend, a friend of mine reminded me to cherish every moment that I spent with Kyla. I just wish I had more time. That same friend reminded me of the importance of living life without expectations… and I agree. The greatest thing about life is that none of us can predict where it will take us… that’s the best part of the journey, isn’t it?

And then I found this…

Also, while I believe living life without expectations has merit, I have always had doubts about how possible it really is. But I do know that living in the present moment, is both possible and fruitful. And as I think about it, don’t expectations get born when we are dreaming of some not yet realized future that takes us out of the present moment?
All good and valid points. While they don’t all agree with each other, I think there is a way to marry them into one complete, fleshed-out philosophy.

On paper, avoiding disappointment because you expect nothing sounds really good. On paper. But what about the consequences of this? We would become concerned only with what’s right in front us, in the here and now. And I believe that’s a selfish way to live. One of the greatest joys in life is possibility. Not in a “the grass is greener” kind of way, but in a “just think what it could really be” kind of way. Imagine a life without possibility… it’s not a life.

In reference to having expectations of others:

I think it’s important to adjust our expectations to the person or situation. Is it reasonable to expect your husband to know that you need a back rub? Not if you don’t tell him. But yet we don’t want to have to tell him, do we? We have this deep desire for another human being to know us so well that no words are necessarily. We don’t want to have to tell them our shoulder blades hurt, that we had a hard day and want some TLC. But is that fair? (Maybe for some husbands it is.) I believe the words of Sara Groves put it best: Sometimes things change / sometimes we’re waiting / We need grace either way / Hold on to me / I’ll hold on to you. We often forget we’re in this whole thing together, and if we would communicate with each other effectively we might be able to eliminate disappointments on a larger scale.In reference to having expectations of ourselves:

One of the greatest things about expectations, whether it comes from me or another person, is that it forces me to become a better version of myself. I fail plenty of times and I hate failure. I grew up with the attitude that failure just wasn’t an option. As I’ve grown into myself, I’ve learned to remember this: at least I tried. (That’s something in my book… it’s important in my book.) But don’t look at another person’s expectation of you as an obligation; I think it’s important to look at it as an opportunity. Each day is an opportunity to do something better than what you did the day before. I need someone pushing me to be better because it doesn’t come naturally to me.

In reference to when others have expectations of you:When I was a kid, I used to HATE that my mom expected me to set the table, when the reality was if she had just asked me nicely, I would have done it. This young girl I’ve been mentoring for the last two years finds herself doing to opposite of what’s expected of her all the time, and when she asked why I thought she behaved that way I told her it was she didn’t want anyone if pigeon-hole her. If she was at a construction site with her dad, she would dance around and do “girly” things. When she teaches at the dance studio, she lugs around heavy props and builds set pieces. There are some situations were we just don’t want an expectations placed on us, and we need to remember that when we place an expectation on another.

This is so much like every other area of our lives, especially the spiritual ones. It must be in moderation. But that’s is not a cop out. It’s simply a bit of truth. When you are disappointed ask yourself, “Was that expectation fair?” If it was, then communicate the expectation to the other person. Have a dialog about it. (I really believe that so many of our relationship problems could be prevented with just a little honesty and communication.) Communicate an expectation and listen to the other’s response with an open heart. And when someone places an unfair expectation on you, don’t be afraid to tell them it’s unfair.If we tried to live our lives without expecting anything from others, than we shouldn’t fulfill the expectations of others (in order to really live the philosophy out). Expectations are simply another form of hope. And no one should give up hope. I cannot imagine a life more full of sorrow.

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3

We usually get what we anticipate. –
Claude M. Bristol

2 Comments on “Living Life Without Expectations

  1. This is really good. I have to process it more because even though I think its important to have expectations, I do find that I am less disappointed when I don’t have any. I like your insight towards the girl you are mentoring….which is a very cool thing to do!


  2. How about our expectations of God?Here is a quote that I used in < HREF="" REL="nofollow">this post about hope and expectations<>:“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” – Theodore Rubin


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