Letting Go of Expectations | Center for Growth Therapy

Letting Go of Expectations

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Jordan Pearce, MA, LAC, NCC

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Christian Dozier, LPC, Couples Therapist & Director of Child / Teen Therapy

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Brian Jones MSED (Associate Therapist)

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Opening Yourself Up to More by Letting Go of Expectations

Do you find yourself often disappointed when things don’t go your way? Do you find yourself constantly disappointed by friends or family? Are you constantly focusing on the negative, like what you don’t have rather than focusing on the positive in your life? Do you wish you could just be grateful for what already exists in your life? It is healthy to strive for more and want more for yourself and those around you, but this can be a slippery slope when your wants and desires take all of your energy and distract you from being grateful for what is, rather than what isn’t. Having expectations and goals in life can be good; it serves as a way to motivate you, keep you working for more and having hope. However, you want to be careful with expectations. Just because we have them doesn’t mean they will happen in life. Having expectations can be risky, because unmet expectations can lead to disappointment. If you’re finding yourself constantly let down by people and outcomes due to the set image you have in your head, you may want to try letting go of your expectations and being open to multiple outcomes in life.

Life doesn’t always work out the way we want it to, or imagine it would. Whether it’s job expectations, expectations to raise a family, or expectations of how your family would interact, these type of expectations aren’t always controllable. If you’re going through your life saying “this isn’t how it’s supposed to be,” you’re wasting your time and energy because this is your life and it’s happening now. Take your energy from your expectations and disappointments and put in fulfilling the life you currently have. How do you want to enhance your present situation? Perhaps by taking a class to further your education or interest in a subject, take on a part time job or an activity that you are passionate about, enter therapy as a way to learn more about yourself. Whatever the activity is for you, find something that is fulfilling for you.

Letting Go of Expections: Give yourself permission to be stuck

The word should is an interesting word, as well as a negative word. It implies a desire or expectation for something to exist, and in a specific way, but there’s a negative tone to it. The word “should” interferes with giving ourselves permission to have things in our life go differently. “I should know what I want to do with my life by now.” Such negative should statements give us such high standards to go by. Maybe you are stuck, and you don’t know if you want to make a career move a or major life change. Give yourself permission to be stuck. Allow yourself the time to experience not knowing your next move. The experience of fully feeling stuck is part of the process of change and growth. It will help you grow from the experience and teach you how you want to respond from feeling lost and unsure of where you are. It is a natural step in life to not always like where we are in life. The moments of uncertainty, struggle, or conflict, are the experiences that strengthen us and make us more in tune with our wants, desires, and needs.

Letting Go of Expectations: The silver lining

Reflect on your current situation to see if there’s any benefits to where you are right now. Do you have a strong network of friends that are stepping up and showing their love and support for you in this time of struggle? Do you have more flexibility in your schedule right now that allows you to spend time on your true passions, or practicing self-care by going to the gym, or reading in the park? Perhaps you have ongoing conflict with your family and you’re often disappointed in their lack of involvement. Who in your life involves themselves, calls regularly, wanting to know more about your life. Who can you give that time and energy to? It’s not about cutting out the things or people who are contributing to you feeling unfulfilled, but more its taking that energy and focus and investing it in things and people who can give you more of what your looking for right now.

It’s always draining when there is a crisis or conflict in life, but often it’s the tough times that reveal our strengths. These strengths can be found within ourselves, or these strengths can be found with in our friends and family who step in and lend help and support. Another possible benefit could be that if you let go of your previous expectations, that means you have no rules or strict standards to follow. Basically, you have nothing to lose at this point.

Perhaps you have ongoing conflict with your family and you’re often disappointed in their lack of involvement with you. Who in your life involves themselves, and calls regularly, wanting to know more about your life. Who can you give that time and energy to? It’s not about cutting out the things or people who are contributing to you feeling unfulfilled, but more its taking that energy and focus and investing it in things and people who can give you more of what your looking for right now.

Letting Go of Expectations: Checking in

Often at this junction we recommend going to a therapist, or a close friend for a reality check. Having a non-biased person to talk to can help you gain a new perspective on your current situation. A therapist or a good friend can provide honest feedback about where you are struggling, an outsider might be able to see things that you are unable to. Maybe there is something you are doing that’s contributing to being stuck, or you continue to pick the wrong partners. On the other hand, you may not be contributing to your struggles, this could just be natural life events occurring, and if so a friend or therapist can help identify this for you.

It’s very difficult to let go of expectations. Even reading this self-help article means that you are being proactive and trying to create some kind of change. Your new challenge is to simply accept yourself (and those around you) with where you are right now. You will find the more energy you put into the reciprocal areas of your life, and let go of trying to control the uncontrollable and more draining parts, you will begin to see positive results and experience a more positive you. Continue to remind yourself of what you’re grateful for, and continue to give yourself permission to be exactly where you are, give yourself time to adjust to this new thinking.

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