We all know what it feels like to have the wind sucked out of us when disappointment takes over. It’s an awful feeling. I used to experience it much more often, until I learned a valuable lesson:
Setting expectations only leads to unnecessary disappointment.
In 2009, tears streamed down my cheeks the whole way home on a flight from Los Angeles to Tampa. While there, I had been offered the ideally perfect job for me, with the minimum salary we needed to survive, and I felt like everything I had worked 5 years toward creating was coming true. We filled out the paperwork for an apartment in Glendale and starting planning our new lives.
Then, I got the strangest phone call the night before I left. It all came crashing down. I would have to leave L.A. with no prospects, my tail between my legs and the reality that we would probably be staying exactly where we were…in the 470 sq ft studio in the same zip code where I grew up.
I was devastated. We both were.
My husband finished his L.A. internship and came back to our tiny studio. We didn’t know what else to do since it was the peak of the recession, so we started our own business. Fresh out of college. That business ended up providing an income that supported both of us and opened up doors to relationships that have changed the course of our lives.
We still ended up making all the things we wanted happen…just here. In my hometown. Not 2500 miles away. Now we both have careers we love, two kids, a home, and my family lives in the same neighborhood as us.
When I think back to how disappointed I was when the opportunity I thought I wanted didn’t work out, I realize that it was a gift.
Plan B became Plan A, and I am better off for it. How can we even see what gifts may be resting in Plan B if we are too busy being overwhelmed in grief from Plan A (that by the way…never happened, was never going to happen, and literally only existed as a figment in our imagination)?
Mindfulness teaches us to keep our thoughts and energy in the current moment. This is particularly challenging for me, but I’ve learned it’s the best path to my inner peace. When I feel the emotion of disappointment coming on, I pause. I ask myself if I am only feeling this because of an expectation I set in my own imagination, and if I am missing a gift that is right in front of me.
As we prepare for 2021, my encouragement for you is to hold the plans loosely. I believe setting goals and intentions are important. They give us something to strive toward. They help us rise into growth and self-improvement. However, we must be prepared for the curveballs that are inevitably coming.
And before I go, I know many of you probably feel disappointment the most from other people. I feel you. But it’s really not much different than what you expect from your future plans. We cannot control either people, nor plans. I try really hard to release people of crazy high expectations, especially the expectations to which I hold myself. I choose to observe people. I let their actions show me their personalities, their priorities, their insecurities, their fears, their past hurt, their strengths, their gifts, etc. When someone disappoints me, I just watch it and observe it. I allow the experience to teach me something I need to learn about myself.
In simple terms…I hold my expectations of people much like I do my plans…loosely and with gratitude.
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