How to manage stress? Drop your expectations and assumptions to the floor, period
Expectations and assumptions are natural functions of the human mind and can exist at a deep and 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 this 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 some advice for you, drop your expectations.
Throw them out the damn window.
How to Manage Stress: Drop Your Assumptions
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 present 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 for it 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 my 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 present 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. Who knows what I missed out on by not being fully present?
Consciously dropping your expectations is not always easy, especially if you have already experienced something to be 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 and unfold completely.
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. The result is already pre-determined.
Drop your expectations of how someone or something will be, just be present. Your expectations can only be met 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? You then need to do more next time to please them. If you’ve ever felt the need to please or meet your parents expectations, you know this isn’t a sustainable or healthy cycle. I call this the “Expectation Loop”. It is a rollercoaster which is nearly impossible to get off of. It’s also a ride which you will never win a prize on, it’s an endless game.
How to Manage Your Stress: No Assumptions
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 transpire, we again take ourselves out of the present moment and begin to set ourselves up for a diluted and painful experience.
Assumptions are especially dangerous because they limit our beliefs in ourselves, others and reality.
I can offer my own yoga practice as an example here; A few years ago I accomplished a pose I had been unable to do for about five years. 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 the moment I achieved the pose, 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 had 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’d 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 incorrect assumptions do we each carry about our own bodies and about our own potential?
In reality, 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 too, but that’s part of being human, that’s part of our experience, until it no longer needs to be.
Only when we drop our assumptions about life and how things will be, can we truly begin to live in the present 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 life better, I promise.
What have we learned? Don’t expect anything and don’t assume you know how something will be. Both limit our experiences, ourselves and ultimately our growth and happiness.
Making a change in how your mind has functioned for years is not always easy and is not something that may just be achieved over night. Just like any skill, it takes time and practice.
Developing a 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 practice.
Start developing more awareness in your thoughts before you experience a new situation and 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. In fact, don’t expect or assume anything.
Are you searching for ways to drop your expectations and increase your happiness? Learn more about our online coaching program “Let’s Get Meditated!” and begin to learn how!
Nick Palladino-King teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.