It sucks when life doesn’t meet your expectations. It really sucks. You’re disappointed at best, crushed at worst. Your perfect plan has suddenly evaporated into thin air. All the promises you’ve been told you can rely on turn out to be empty.

From the earliest age on, you are bombarded with images of what you can expect from life. Which of these images you embrace as your truth, depends on the extent to which you judge yourself. If you judge yourself unworthy of abundance, then you set your expectations lower. If you are full of confidence, you may expect the whole world to be at your beck and call. One way or another, you start out in life pumped full of expectations. The end goal of all expectations is that you will be happy.

Notice the use of future tense. You will be happy. If you get this degree, you’ll be happy. If you make more money, you’ll be happy. When you buy a house, you’ll be happy. When you meet that special person, get married and have children, you’ll be happy. Once you retire, you’ll be happy. When you achieve _____, you’ll be happy. All of these promises have you living for the future, at the expense of how you spend your time now. All of these promises have you looking to the outside world, to make you feel good inside.

Of course, happiness is only short-lived when it relies on the outside world. Change is sure to come and rip your expectations into little pieces. The day-to-day never matches the idealistic pictures that flash through your head when you’re making your big plan.

Yes, times change. But the primary reason your expectations never pan out is yourself. You change. Think about who you are now compared to just five years ago. Or just one year ago. You cannot predict how you feel in the future. What you think makes you happy today, is bound to be something else tomorrow. Even if you could stay the same, do you want to be the same person you are today for the rest of your life? Is this version of you right now the version that is set in stone? If not, when do you think you can expect to stop changing? When you set expectations, you’re working towards a future in which you assume you are the same person you are today. It’s a recipe for a huge letdown.

Expectations are a powerful collection of judgments. Expectations are where your judging habit can run rampant. Anything goes. You create a mental picture of your life that you judge to be perfect. You then set about pursuing that picture, using the goal of happiness as justification to judge and negotiate your way around others. But as circumstances change – and you change – your goals shift the picture of what would make you happy. So now you pursue that. In your pursuit, your expectations rule every interaction. You’re happy when things happen in your favor. You’re unhappy when they’re don’t. Even in good times, you live with the fear of life letting you down. But that’s the rollercoaster of the judging life. You can spend your whole life chasing what you project to bring you happiness, blaming the world each time it doesn’t happen.

When you build your whole life around expectations, the only thing you can expect is for your life to eventually crumble. Expectations are the number one reason you are guaranteed to feel let down. And they are the number one reason that forces you to grow. As life fails to meet your expectations over and over again, it pushes you to search for your happiness somewhere else. Eventually, that journey takes you to looking within you, instead of without you. Each time the outside world lets you down, you become aware of a space opening up in the world inside of you. That space is your self-love. That space is you.

How spacious do you feel?

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