When Expectations don't Equal Reality

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I had this vision of myself, when I decided to study abroad in France. I pictured this grand European adventure, starring myself as an intrepid explorer. I would jet off to exotic locales: Budapest, Prague, London, Brussels, Amsterdam... and the list goes on. I would be willing to hop on a train at a moment's notice. My French would be flawless, and I would be taking riveting classes about history, art, and politics. I would be okay with skipping a class here and there if it meant I was able to see the world. 

Flash forward to right now. You might have guessed, my expectations hardly match my reality. My French is far from flawless, my classes are all about the language, and not always exactly riveting. I really enjoy my Sunday trips to the market, and picnics in the shade of the Chateau. My personality and bank account have prevented me from being the intrepid explorer that I had painted myself as in my head. 

For a while, I was upset at this reality. Why wasn't I more adventurous? Why didn't I save more money? Why weren't my classes interesting? And more importantly: Why did I not want to jet off to a new exotic locale every weekend? What was wrong with me? 

As these questions swirled around in my head, I felt myself getting dejected, sad, and angry. This anger, these negative feelings toward myself and my life were preventing me from seeing the beauty in this experience. I'm in France for goodness' sakes! Isn't that enough? 

Spoiler alert: It is.

After a particularly tear-filled Facetime session with my parents, I decided to do something different. I tossed my expectations out the window, and decided that I wasn't going to let my expectations, and how I had laid out this experience in my head, dictate my reality. 

Expectations are toxic

Expectations, if too closely held, cloud your reality, they distract you from the overall purpose of life: to live. You hold on to the way you think things are going to be, the way you hope their going to be, or the way you're scared their going to be, and you let that dictate how you live your present. 

I was dissatisfied with my experience because I was comparing it to how I thought it was going to be. When you compare yourself and your life to someone else, it only hurts you. Similarly, if you compare your expectations, preconceived notions and the image you hold in your head, it poisons your reality. So what do you do?

Throw away your expectations. Cast them to the wind, toss them in the trash, send them down the river, whatever you please. Just get rid of them. 

For someone who loves to plan things out, and who hates surprises, this is really difficult, I know. But it's much better, healthier, and enjoyable to take things as they come, and to truly enjoy the moment. By worrying and dwelling on your expectations, you could be missing out on something big. I know I was.

"We must let go of the life we had planned, to have the life that is waiting for us." - Joseph Campbell

How do you deal with expectations? Do you think it's good to have expectations? 

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