4 Steps to Letting Go of Expectations

“We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy.”  ~Richard Foster

It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. ~J.Krishnamurti

One of the questions I get quite often is people asking how they can afford a big RV and be a nomad. They’re certain they need at least a 35 foot RV to be happy–but they can’t afford one. So they write to me to tell me they are trapped and can’t do anything but stay stuck in their house, barely surviving on their small income. I always write back and try to explain to them that they have been brainwashed into having totally unreasonable expectations of what is required to make them happy. We’ve  been taught these greatly exaggerated expectations of what we NEED to be happy and we simply can not loosen their death grip on our hearts and minds. If we could, we could be happy in virtually any situation, but if we can’t, no amount of accumulating things, experiences or relationships will make us happy. Exaggerated expectations are the death of happiness. 

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” ~ Epicurus

What happens is we are not happy from the inside of us, so we start looking for happiness on the outside of us, where it can never be found! We fall into a vicious cycle:

  1. Meeting our basic needs leaves us unhappy because the simple fact is that things can’t make us happy but society has brainwashed us to believe that’s the only place where it can be found.
  2. So we pursue our wants, “Of course I’m not happy, I’m missing too much, if I can get them, then I will be happy!” But when we get them, surprise, we are just as hollow inside because we still haven’t learned that contentment only comes from within.
  3. Next, we pursue luxuries in the desperate (and foolish) hope that, “If I can just get that, I know I will find joy in my life” But alas, we still haven’t learned that most of what society has taught us is a lie and there is no joy in more things.
  4. Finally, we’re so desperate to find any true satisfaction or meaning in our lives, so we pursue extravagancies. But it too is a total failure and we are left emptier than ever. All too often this leads to what is commonly called a “mid-life crisis”. It may set us on a true path to inner peace, but more likely, spin us off on an orgy of pursuing selfish pleasures.

It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.” ~ Seneca

When their despair grows strong enough, they start searching for some real, true joy and some run across my site and feel some actual hope for the first time in a long time. So they write me and tell me their story. Here is a typical answer I might send to someone, this particular reader had decided he had to spend at least $150,000 for a truck and trailer to become a nomad

… you have to understand I’ve never owned an RV and my site is dedicated to helping people who can just barely survive on their meager incomes to not only survive but to thrive. I live in a van and if I took that $150,000 for a truck and trailer and put it in the bank, I could live comfortably on it for the next 10 years. Add in my Social Security and I could live comfortably on it for the rest of my life.

There is one problem here and that is your expectations on what is essential to a happy life. It is the source of most of the pain and unhappiness you’ve ever had. If you could change that one thing, suddenly your life would be amazingly wonderful.

Bear in mind, they are not your expectations, you were not born with them!!! 150 years ago, no one had the expectations that you and I have. The things you consider essential to happiness did NOT EXIST back then? Was everybody unhappy then? Was it a life of constant misery?

No, people were happier back then!

These vile expectations were forced onto you by our society to turn you into a wage-slave and a buying machine–a tool and cog of capitalism. Our expectations are the prison guard that forces us into a life of unhappiness, slavery, monotony and drudgery.

If you could reduce your expectations, everything in your life would change. You could happily live on what you have instead of being consumed by what you don’t have.

I’m going to publish a Christmas video on this and give you some ideas on how to reduce your expectations. You may want to check it out.I hope you can forgive me for my philosophical zeal, but if you could learn to think smaller, all these issues could go away.

I did publish that Christmas video and you can find it here:

(If you don’t see it above, click on this link www.youtube.com/watch?v=n60bZbKctNY

 “Contentment comes not so much from great wealth as from few wants.” ~ Epictetus

In it I give 4 Steps to letting go of your expectations, here they are:

1- Become Child-like by Restoring your Innocent Sense of Wonder

(10:10 on the video) By nature children are incredibly curious and naturally filled with awe and wonder at everything around them. Give them a new toy and they will soon lose interest in it but be absorbed by the box. Their sense of amazement at everything they see is a constant source of joy to them. They literally marvel at the miracles they see everywhere around them; from bugs to flowers to trees to the stars and the moon–everything is a spectacle to them.

However, children are also very child-ish, and that behavior we must not emulate, just their pure joy in life.

It won’t be easy but we can find that in ourselves again. Society has done everything it can to get rid of it, but they cannot take it away. If you search diligently for it, you will find it’s still there. It will mean withdrawing from our man-made things and re-connecting with nature. Unfortunately, that can be a very unpleasant process, but if you will persist and go through the pain of withdrawal,  on the other side of the withdrawal you will find your authentic heart and with it the ability to be happy in any circumstance.

“My riches consist, not in the extent of my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants.”           ~ Joseph Brotherton

2- Develop a Beginners mind 

(16:07 of the video) The modern world is so full of knowledge and information it is just assumed that we will become experts about many things. In fact, we are judged by how much of a ‘know-it-all” we become. Most of us are totally absorbed by being “right” and are ready to put on the boxing gloves at any time to prove we are right. The beginner mind is the opposite of that, it is pliable and flexible! It begins with the assumption that “I don’t know what I’m doing and I might very well be wrong at any time.” So it’s open to learning and receiving totally new and different ideas. It doesn’t need to throw out wrong ideas because it has so few hard-and-fast ideas already!!

Most of us are the opposite of that, our thinking is fixed and hard. We know the truth and god help you if you come and try to tell me I’m wrong!!!

Sadly, the fruit of that in our lives demonstrate all too well that what we know and are so certain of is mostly a lie because it fails to bring joy, contentment or meaning to our lives. Just the opposite, our lives are hollow, shallow and empty, leaving us longing for something that works.

Adopting the beginner’s mind is the only way out of that trap. We must be willing to closely examine and throw out every single idea in our lives. My assumption must be, at all times and with every idea, that I will analyze and critique it and if it works for me and makes good sense, I will keep it temporarily, but if it does not, out it goes!! Every idea is subject to scrutiny and being discarded!

The one absolute truth in your life from now is, “I don’t really know what I am doing, so everything is subject to questioning and rejection.”

“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”     ~ Charles Spurgeon

3- Become an Explorer

(22:00 of the video) The idea here is to adopt an attitude of one of the great explorers of the past such as Columbus, Cook or Magellan. They each were the first to sail into totally uncharted and unmapped territory. They had no expectations about what they might find, it could be wonderful or horrible, or both! But they bravely went anyway, risking everything to find new truths and complete their knowledge of the world.

You also have a new world and uncharted territory you must explore, and first and foremost that is the inner you. I know that seems hard to understand, but your entire life someone else has been telling you who you are and what you should want and what you should do. You rarely had the chance to do it for yourself without being strongly influenced by parents, teachers and mostly by the media.

Now is the time to find the authentic, genuine and natural you.

“It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.”  ~Bertrand Russell

4- Be Ready to Break  the Rules of “Normalcy”

The primary goal of society is to make you compliant and obedient so that our large population can live in a very small space. That works extremely well for society as a whole, generally we function extremely well. But it also works extremely poorly for the individual who loses much of his freedom and peace of mind.  Your best hope to be able to live your best life is to drop out of society and live by your own rules. However, we must always be careful to not bring problems down on ourselves, we do that by always following the three eternal rules of:

  1. “One for all and all for one,”
  2. “First, do no harm, and then do as you will.”
  3. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

While those rules can’t be broken, most of societies other rules are intended to turn you into a wage-slave, buying-machine who they can work and use up then put you out to pasture.  Be willing to break those rules.

Start slowly to break the rules, but, always do it thoughtfully by asking,“Who does this rule help and who does it hurt?” If it only helps to enslave you and has little or no true impact on others–break that rule and find true freedom and peace of mind for yourself!

 “The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”  ~ Elise Boulding

I hope that this little talk has given you some food for thought and even if it’s too radical for you that you will apply some of it, to some of your expectations, and your life will improve. Baby-steps are a very good way to a new life!

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” ~ Socrates

Be sure and check out my YouTube Channel here:


Thanks for supporting this site by using these links to Amazon. I’ll make a small percentage on your purchase and it won’t cost you anything, even if you buy something different.



I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

49 comments on “4 Steps to Letting Go of Expectations
  1. It’s odd. I agree that this will sound “too radical” for some people, but on the other hand, any of these four methods will lead to the others. If the prisoner finally realizes that the door is open and the guards have been sleeping for years, that will change his or her entire outlook. I don’t believe that these things can be unlearned. Denied, yes. Forgotten, no.

    • Bob Bob says:

      You are very wise Calvin, that’s what happens when your eyes are open. I’m sure you are grateful everyday to be on a path that forces you to wake up and actually “see”.

  2. Avatar Linda Sand says:

    For me, the important part turns out to be “others.” I was not successful trying to do this without a tribe. Meeting up with Bob’s group once or twice a year for a few days was not enough. I think if I were to try this again I would join a group that at least loosely travels together. As an introvert I need a lot of alone time but as a human I need others.

    • Bob Bob says:

      The key to any good life is WE. It can’t be done without it. Everybody gets to decide what that means for them, but it must be “WE” and NOT “I”

  3. Avatar Wayne (Wirs) says:

    “What happens is we are not happy from the inside of us”

    So true Bob, so true. The Dalai Lama once said, “Everyone just wants to be happy.” If we are happy within, then what happens without will rarely affect us. We’ll be sure of ourselves, sure of our nature, sure of our place in the world.

    One of the reasons I’m just giving away “Free Enlightenment” http://waynewirs.com/free-enlightenment/ (a book I could easily sell) is because there is so much anger and dissatisfaction in the world. What if we were all happy with ourselves? What if we were kinder and nicer to others? That’s a world I’d much rather live in than the one we find ourselves in. So I just give it away… because that’s the world I’d like to live in.

    You are so right on the traits of a “happy individual”: Child-like, humble, curious, and of course, willing to be a little rebellious in the face of a society brainwashed by the media and corporate interests.

    Your post is a great message for all of us—whether Christmas or any other time of the year. Thank-you for all you do Bob. I for one am glad you’re pulling for us.

  4. Avatar Josh says:

    First rule… Break all the rules!

  5. Avatar Rob says:

    When I lowered my expectations a great many things were within my grasp.

  6. Avatar John Bruce says:

    This is one of my favorite quotes and I have many favorite quotes.

    “It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~J.Krishnamurti

  7. Avatar MK says:

    Bob you are right on once again. Christmas is a prime example of seeking happiness from without. I dont play the game anymore.

  8. Avatar Cindy says:

    Another insightful message.Thanks for all you do Bob. Cindy

  9. Avatar ColdBrook says:

    Excellent video Bob. I hope people who are struggling with the decision, or families and friends of people who have chosen this path will come to understand it a little better after watching your video.
    Thank you for all you do for those of us who only want a much simpler existance to be happy!

  10. Avatar Cameo says:

    Bob, your message was really helpful to me this year. Christmas is kind of weird for me as my son died in a car accident on Christmas Eve ten years ago. But the truth is I didn’t like it even before that terrible thing happened, and my son never liked it (he was very idealistic). So, I mostly opt out. And it is hard because I have a big family, my husband has a big family, and both families make a pretty big deal out of Christmas. But I try to do things throughout the year as they are needed or the opportunity presents itself for something that really is going to make a difference. It’s generally more fun and less stressful, but it can leave me feeling a little bit grinchy at Christmas. Your video helped remind me why it’s OK to do Christmas as lightly as possible – or not at all.

  11. Avatar Patrisse says:

    Winter Blessings, Bob & Cody! from me and Lily, my canine sidekick.

    I love this message! I recently hear this from an astrologer: “Expectation is the dance partner or Disappointment. It’s better to dwell on Willing, in both of it’s meanings: becoming present and available, and/or holding intention.”

    You’re walking in the footsteps of many wise teachers.

  12. Avatar Cheryl G. says:

    Someone told me once “Expectations are pre-meditated disappointments”. I have applied that to my life and have been happy. Great post, Bob, thank you.

  13. Avatar Ruth says:

    Goes on the Top 10 list of blogs/you tube videos of all time thank you Bob and Jamie

  14. Avatar Gary says:

    Great advice Bob, I wish I would have followed it when I was younger. We are so brainwashed. It’s still a struggle for me at an older self, but I’m learning 😉

    Great Quotes to live by. Love Sturgeon and Chambers writings. I just found you recently, can’t believe it took so long. I will be visiting again.

  15. Avatar JIM PETERSON says:

    We must completely reject what I call the Philosophy of More: all these notions that more is better — more expensive is better — newer is better — bigger is better. These are all provably false notions; they can’t hold up to closer inspection. I had a ’72 Chevy 3/4 ton (Camper Special) for 34 years that was in many ways better than the two newer trucks (a ’99 F250 and our current ’00 F350) I’ve owned since then. Some of the older 50s and 60s vintage campers and trailers have much better quality materials and workmanship than the new ones — and with any care at all, one could likely live in one of them for five or ten years and sell it for more than they paid for it.
    I had a smaller 8′ slide-in truck camper that my brother sold me for six monthly payments of $50. For me (as I was single at the time) it was the perfect size and I slept comfortably hundreds of nights in that thing while I was still working fulltime. Many years later, I sold it for $250 = pretty cheap accommodation for all those years . . . and I doubt I would’ve been any more content had it been some $25,000 beast. Another very important consideration is that new RVs depreciate faster than any other asset I can think of. It is estimated that a new RV will depreciate 25 to 40% once you roll it off the lot and that five years later, it will have lost — on average — 50% of its value. So why not buy a five-year-old unit at half price? Or a ten-year-old unit for 1/4th the price? Or do as we did and buy a 20-year-old unit for 1/10th (or less) of what it cost new? These are viable options once you reject the false notion that newer is better.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Very true and very good advice!

    • Avatar Slipstream says:

      Those ’72 Chevy pickups were great, the last year before they went to the square body design. If you don’t mind me asking, how many miles did you put on it?

      Older generally means less upfront costs but more maintenance and repair costs. If you’re handy, it’s definitely the way to go in my opinion. And yes, it’d be hard to find anything which depreciates faster than a new RV. I would never buy one.

  16. Avatar DB says:

    Sorry to say, but I feel that you are no more than a “pied piper” leading the “poor” who have no where else to turn away from their families who love them by offering a reward of riches that they may never find. I would love to see some posts from people who could not cope, who did not find that happiness you preach or who felt that what you promised to them in the end did not pan out. 100% complete honesty not based on some Amazon link that you are trying to sell. Anybody have some stories to tell? I like to see both sides of any issue before I vote. I am not a sheep like many here appear to be.

    • Avatar Geos says:

      A lot of people find self sufficiency and independence threatening. Some (most) people need the approval and permission of others before they do anything. If that’s you than this is clearly not for you. It’s called personal choice.

    • Avatar Dan Hoyt says:

      No lifestyle fits every person. That being said a common theme in most philosophies is that material things will not bring you happiness.
      Another truth is that if you aren’t living in a way that makes you happy you may as well not even be living.
      It seems accurate, that Our education system combined with our entertainment choices, are designed to create a population of worker/consumers that spend their lives not for their own true benefit but for their corporate master’s.
      If that life is what you want fine. There are other paths. This is one of them.

  17. Avatar DB says:

    Additionally, it seems that some of these folks have a lot of free time on their hands. What works of charity could they be doing for the surrounding community that we have not heard about? Reading tutors in the elementary schools, walking dogs for the humane society, working a few hours at the food bank? What are they giving back for the privilege of squatting on the land for nothing?

    • Avatar Dan Hoyt says:

      We are all ‘squatting’ on the land. The land was here before us and will be afterward. Ownership of the land is a rather silly game that we play. We have the same right to be here and use the earth as do the other creatures on this planet. No one asked to be born or had any control over being here. we all have the right to exist and make our lives what we choose.

  18. Avatar elisabet skyhawk says:

    thanks for a great article… i have been living this way (not in a van or on the road right now) for many years and find it is a state of mind, not where/in what i live…once i “embraced” (a graceful word for slugging my way through my particular culture’s affluence mind-bending conditioning) i didn’t look back…there are always ‘trials’, when group consciousness gets the better of me and i become a herd animal for another moment, but i KNOW and FEEL the immediate feedback from an internal system that knows the difference in living free of america’s sick systems and not… so once you make it through the sludge of advertising and find your ethics and delight and joy and ‘REAL’, it doesn’t disappear…

  19. Avatar Tom says:

    Thank you Bob for your post. I almost went and made a large purchase on my self, but rethought my actions after reading your post. I struggle with compulsive behavior. But getting better.

  20. Avatar Joe Lowther says:

    Hi Bob,

    I follow your youtube and enjoy them very much. You are helping people who would be stuck in this life find a way to happiness. I agree things are not what gives one happiness. It is the joy in your heart that is happiness. Keep it simple……


  21. Avatar Zman says:

    Not sure where this belongs other than to say that I got stuck in the snow today however ; I was totally CONFIDENT that I would easily escaped because as Bob teaches and the Boy scouts too be prepared. I have sand shovels ice melt and snow tires.

    • Avatar Scott (NEXT LIFE) says:

      I was a Boy Scout too. “Be Prepared” is the motto that we were taught to live by. Boy Scouts, and others with like minds, were one of the precursors to the modern day “Peepers”. But I feel that we have to look back farther to people like the “Little House on the Prairie” type people. Also, my Grandma and Great Great Grandma, and so on, canned, smoked meat, dehydrated veggies and did other such things. Those that are locked in the “Only work and consume” mindset are missing out on the value our ancestors lived by.

  22. Avatar Ellen says:

    This one’s a keeper–well, they all are, but top of the top ten without question. I am approaching retirement “age” having gotten a late start on retirement savings due to divorce, lack of child support after children turned 18 and truth be told some spending decisions I’d make differently if I could turn back time. Reading this makes me see I have a lot more than I realize even if Suze Orman (financial planning expert) would be dismayed:)

  23. Avatar Geos says:

    A certain megalomaniac has come into power that is the complete antithesis of this philosophy. Will he be turning public lands into private resorts? Will he be “privatizing” (ie profiteering from) public lands? I guess we’ll have to wait and see but I think it’s pretty clear he is no friend of this lifestyle.

    • Avatar JIM PETERSON says:

      I think it’s pretty clear the Orange Menace is no friend of anyone who can do their own thinking. It’s rarely easy but I TRY real hard to live my life these days so that it can’t possibly matter who the POTUS is. It’s hard to believe our electorate has sunk to this unprecedented low but it is what it is. His wannabee administration is in trouble already but he’s just one idiot. Hopefully his handlers can keep him under control but this boy with his 3rd grade education redefines “loose cannon” and loose cannons sent some of the finest wooden ships of their day to the bottom of the sea.

  24. Avatar Paul James says:

    Hi Bob, if I didn’t know any better, I would have accused you of being a Buddhist. 🙂 Your thoughts on expectation remind me of something akin to letting go of attachment or grasping to that which is not really there at all. I really enjoy your way of presenting this truth. You are a wise and excellent teacher! I am so glad I found your website!

    On a humorous note, The fact that you have the appearance of Santa Claus whilst delivering quite a contrary message on Christmas Day is not lost on me. Bravo!

    As someone who is preparing to leave the fixed dwelling life soon, I wanted to say that your 3rd point on becoming an explorer has helped put my mind at ease. Thank You and keep up the outstanding work! I hope I can make it to the RTR and say hi.

  25. Avatar Cae says:

    Great ideas. There’s been psychological studies that clearly show how people buy things for a euphoric feeling and then need to keep doing it in order keep getting the feeling. So, it’s a lot like an addiction.

  26. Avatar WalkaboutTed says:

    I wrote this on a post in the forum, but I think it is apropos enough to bring it into the contents here:

    Just something to think about:
    Maybe you can readjust your viewpoint. Now, some of you readers will think this is wrong, but here goes.

    How much is your home worth? Does it or your stuff give you enough warm fuzzies to forgo a future, that as Bob says,”can make your heart sing”? Is your house worth more than you owe? If so, could you sell it? If not, why are you dumping money into a bad investment? Walk away like Wall Street does. You are your most important investment. If walking away and following your dreams, into a lifestyle you can afford, is something that YOU can see, grab it. These days will never come again. Every day that you are unhappy with your situation is one day less of a potential blossoming of your soul into a fulfilling place that you previously could have only dreamt of.

    If you are bemoaning circumstances that are beyond your control, then take control by voting with your feet.

    If you do decide on a strategic default, of course, check with an attorney, usually you can live in your home several months, rent free during the foreclosure process. That way you could save up some money to buy a vehicle. Look at how much your current lifestyle is costing you. You can’t afford it. Sell your sh*t, cut out everything you can, and watch Craigslist.

    The common reason of many detractors of this viewpoint is “But I’ll destroy my credit!”. What good is your credit doing for you now? Another frequent argument is “You’re being irresponsible!” What about your responsibility to yourself to live your best life? Another one is: “what you’re doing is mostly wrong or unethical”. Is it right to mortgage your future to an artificial principle that only holds you prisoner? Why should you be held to a higher standard than the rich (and powerful) serial bankruptees who only think you’re a chump?

    The system depends on all of us prisoners to continue our self-enforced enslavement, while wringing every last penny from us. And the powers that be do everything they can to prevent you from seeing the light of freedom. It’s your life, no one else’s.

    I believe in serendipity. Be open to possibilities and they will be reachable.

  27. Avatar Douglas says:

    I have been in the process of getting rid of unnecessary stuff that has no meaning to me, some i have sold, other stuff given or thrown away.

    I will not go into debt ever again to buy anything. If I cannot afford to pay for it without debt, I cannot afford it. I also have a hard time paying several tens of thousands of dollars for a truck when I can spend a fraction to rebuild mine.

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