Expectations and assumptions are natural and common functions of the human mind and exist at a very unconscious level. They prepare and inform us how to act and can protect us from emotional pain, they serve a function. Expectations and assumptions however, are core contributors to our unhappiness and prevent us from living in the present moment. Think back to a minute ago before you started reading this blog- when you read the title, what did you expect to find, what did you assume it would be about? That answer is different for all of us, so take a moment and see if you can recall your initial thoughts that came to mind. Maybe you thought to yourself “I expect this to be good or I expect this to be bad.” Or maybe you assumed that this blog would only be related to yoga and not applicable if you don’t have a yoga practice. Are any of these thoughts right or wrong? I do not know the answer, but neither do any of us until we actually experience the article, event or moment first hand. I can hear you saying already “but it’s good to have expectations about things, we should expect things to be good and avoid things we expect to be bad.” Well, I have a new life rule to offer; No Expectations.
When we expect we know how something will be or how someone will act, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and immediately cutting ourselves off from experiencing life in the moment. For example; last week I went to a class of the most popular yoga teacher in San Francisco. I expected the class to change me, to reveal something I did not know about myself and to blow me away. It did not. I left saying to myself “How is this guy so popular? He’s good but I’m a little disappointed.” Firstly, how could someone have actually lived up to those expectations? How could a teacher be able to deliver all of those results to a person they’ve never even met before? The answer is, they cannot. My expectations were unreal and unfair. I went into class with high expectations, expectations that this teacher and many others would be unable to fulfill, that is my short-coming, no one else’s. Secondly, The moment I set an expectation about what I would experience, I took myself out of the moment and allowed my thinking mind to take over, judge and label my experience. Critiquing mistakes, wanting more of certain poses and less others. Again, these are short-comings created by my mind, by my limited perspective. In the end the unrealistic expectations I set for class only took away from the experience in front of me. Consciously limiting your expectations is not easy, especially if you have already experienced someone to behave in a certain way. But this is the challenge, this is where we begin to be present and allow the event or person to also be present. Take for example a repeated argument you have had with a lover or disagreement you have had with your boss. Do they always end the same way, do you always have the same disagreement? If so, it is most likely because you each expect one another to act and react in a specific manner, the same specific manner you have reacted in during the past. Drop your expectations of how someone or something will be, just be present. Your expectations can only come true or come up short for that matter if you set them at the beginning. Furthermore, think about what happens when someone finally lives up to your expectations. If you’ve ever felt the need to please and meet your parents expectations, you know this isn’t a sustainable or healthy cycle. An old friend of mine used to always say: “No expectations, just high standards.” The more I look at it, the more I realize it’s not perfect, but it’s a pretty darn good start.
Assuming you’re still reading, let’s talk about assumptions, which can be even more dangerous to your experiences and life journey than expectations. When we assume we know something or assume we know how an event will conspire we again take ourselves out of the present moment and begin to set ourselves up for a diluted experience. Assumptions are especially dangerous because they limit our beliefs in ourselves and others. I can offer my own yoga practice as an example here; A few days ago I accomplished a pose I have been unable to do for a few years now. Three years ago, every time I tried it, my wrist felt like it was going to break. I did not have the strength or flexibility in my arms to hit to pose. So guess what? Up until a few days ago I thought “I can never do this pose, my body just isn’t built for it.” My assumptions and ultimately my limiting beliefs around my body and potential were wrong. I did not account for the fact that I have become stronger and more flexible through continued progress and was able to do the pose with relative ease. It blew my mind how easily I popped into the pose and made me realize I’d been limiting myself for quite a while. Who knows how long I’ve actually been able to do this pose, one month, one year? The point is, I assumed I knew what I could do and what I could not do. My assumptions were wrong, now the question is; how many more incorrect assumptions do we each have about our bodies and about our potential? Unfortunately, it’s probably a lot. Do you assume you can’t loose weight? Do you assume you are bad at relationships? Do you assume you can’t change your life for the better and follow your passions? I do, but that’s part of being human, that’s part of our experience. Only when we drop our assumptions around life and how things are, can we truly begin to live in the moment. This is where progress lives, this is where happiness lives, and only you have the ability to bring this into your world. Ever hear the old adage: “Don’t assume, because it makes an ASS of U and ME?” Well, this may be a little harsh, but it isn’t far off from the point. Drop your assumptions, it will make you and your relationships better, I promise.
What have we learned? Don’t expect anything and don’t assume you know how something will be. When we take either of these actions, we limit our experiences, we limit ourselves and ultimately limit our growth and happiness. Making a change in how your mind has functioned for years is not easy and is not something that can be achieved over night. Any teacher or book who says this, is not being genuine. Developing a solid yoga practice or daily meditation practice is a great way to start making changes in your perspective and consciousness, but again it takes time. The same way you can’t expect to just take few piano lessons and be good at playing the piano applies to your mind and consciousness. It takes time, it takes failure and takes practice. Start developing awareness around your thoughts before you experience a new situation and simply begin to notice your habits. Once you begin to do this, it gets a lot easier and your expectations and assumptions will naturally begin to decrease, making you more present and happier- just don’t expect or assume this will happen overnight 😉