Managing Expectations: An Exercise on Letting Go
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” – Lao Tzu
Letting go can be hard. The difficulty lies in the expectation or emotional attachment we have to the outcome of an event or circumstance in our lives. The goal is to be void of all emotional attachment to the outcome.
At first glance that may sound counter-intuitive, or maybe even sociopathic. But to be unattached emotionally to the outcome of a situation means you’ll come out on the other side (emotionally) the same way you came in. If you’re happy and emotionally connected to self, you’ll remain that way. If you’re a mess, you’ll still be a mess.
Consider many lottery winners, most often the good fortune they expect from becoming instantly rich only magnifies their emotional or financial issues. So why do most people continually seek happiness from material or external sources? Because it’s easier.
Who wants to invest the time in emotional intelligence, character building, mindfulness, and self-acceptance when they can purchase a lottery ticket or new TV?
The key is to learn self-acceptance and emotional connectedness with self (self-love) so that we can lower our need for external validation. This in turn helps to manage our expectations; i.e. we begin to expect less from ourselves and others simply because we need less to feel worthy.
Don’t confuse expecting less with lowering your values or goals in life. Setting goals is important, but be careful about attaching self-worth and happiness to the outcomes. It’s more important to continually grow emotionally and spiritually and the realization that growth is the goal.
Change your perspective from one of winning to one of learning.
If you’re having trouble letting something go, here’s a practical exercise that may help:
Pick up on object like a pencil, rock, or anything. Hold it in your hand with your arm out in front of your body with palm facing up. With palm still facing up, open your hand (let it go). What happens?
It’s still there right? Although you’ve let it go, you haven’t completely turned it over.
Now try the same exercise (palm facing up) but after opening your hand, slowly turn your palm over (turning it over). Obviously the object now falls to the ground as gravity or the universe takes over.
Truly letting something go means turning it over to the power of the universe; letting nature take its course. It’s about stopping the resistance to what is and managing our expectations on what we can and cannot control.
I often use this exercise when I’m worried about something. For example, if I’m having trouble sleeping I visualize the issue or circumstance as an object in my hand and perform this exercise sitting up in bed. It reminds me that I need to turn it over. That even if I think I’ve let it go, I’m still attaching some self-worth or expectation to the outcome. This helps me focus on the reality that everything is OK, that my basic needs are met and move towards gratitude.