Why Expectations Make You Unhappy

A few years ago, I realized my expectations were holding me back from living a happier life.

I was constantly frustrated with how events unfolded around me. I was upset when I couldn’t control the situation, and annoyed when things didn’t go as I’d planned.

The most minor of events could unravel my day – and with it, my happiness.

Take any ordinary night as an example. Let’s say I’d hoped to go to dinner with my husband; pictured us sharing a bottle of wine at my favorite restaurant. But when I arrived home with my game plan, something came up. Maybe my husband had plans with friends or (gasp!) he just wanted to stay home that night.

When my expectations (the grandiose, fabricated situations I created in my mind) weren’t met, my night was ruined.

Sound familiar to anyone else? I know I’m not the only who has let unmet expectations dictate their happiness.

So why on earth do we do this to ourselves?

We have been taught at a young age that success (and with it love and acceptance) happens when we work towards & reach lofty goals. In order to reach those lofty goals we must have a plan. We we can’t simply “wing it.” We need to know what to expect so we can live our lives accordingly. We need to control the situation.

Unfortunately for our happiness, this is a losing proposition.

Life is never what we expect. We know this, and yet we are constantly fighting for control.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad to have goals and work towards them. But it’s a balancing act. We need to be willing to truly accept this ever-changing life, with all it’s twists and turns. We need to be able to maneuver around the curve balls thrown at us.

In order to do that, we need accept that every situation will unfold the way it is meant to. By doing so, we are then able to navigate life without resentment.

Life has a funny way of working out perfectly, even when we don’t control every aspect of it. Events don’t need to play out exactly as we want them to. Nor should they.

There is beauty, and peace, in the unknown.

Happiness comes to us more easily when we let go of preconceived notions and let things be.

So for those of you who are like me – who find themselves falling in this same trap – I challenge you to start practicing letting go of your expectations. Here’s how I’ve learned to let go & reclaim my happiness:

  1. Acknowledge the role your expectations are playing. Don’t blame others for your disappointment or frustrations. Take a step back and examine whether or not your expectations are the underlying source of your unhappiness.
  2. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you cannot control every aspect of life. While that can seem scary at first, it’s oddly freeing as well. The only thing you can control is your response. So, yes, you can choose to be frustrated with the situation you can’t control. But you can also choose to accept it and move on. You can choose to go with the flow and be happy.
  3. Let go of the reigns. Practice letting the situation unravel naturally, then examine the results. Maybe it didn’t go as expected, but how did things turn out? When you let it be, were you happier? Less stressed? I know for myself this has almost always turned out to be the case. And the more we practice, the better we get at letting go of our expectations, and being happier as a result.

So for those of you who need to hear it today, I encourage you to take a deep breath, and let your expectations go. Find the peace and joy that occurs when you simply live in the moment.

I’m right there with you, trying my best.