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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- “One for all and all for one,”
- “First, do no harm, and then do as you will.”
- “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
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