5 Steps to Let Go of Expectations
“If you try to hang on to something in the exact form it now is, you lose it”. -- John-Roger
Even after more than twenty years as an executive coach, I find that the subject of “expectations” never gets old. What do I mean by ”expectations?” I mean that we go into situations or interact with others anticipating that people will act or a situation will resolve in a particular way. For example, you may expect that your spouse remembers your anniversary or your sibling step up and help you with your aging parents. All too often though, your view of the situation does not align with the reality; your projection is not fulfilled. In which case you are left with a feeling of disappointment, anger, and frustration.
For better or worse, with living comes expectations of ourselves, those around us and our environment. Sometimes, expectations are unavoidably uncomfortable or even painful. Why? Here are my reasons: 1. An expectation is never neutral. It has a judgment, a ”should” or a “hope” attached to it. 2. An expectation is not always obvious or clear and may be hard to meet. 3. When an expectation is not met we often find ourselves with a negative emotion such as frustration, anger or disappointment in ourselves or others.
So what kinds of expectations are there? We have personal expectations such as: “I need to lose weight.” “I want to reduce stress.” or “I want to get along with my spouse.” Or we have professional expectations such as: “I need to be more productive” or “I want to be a clear communicator” or “I need to be less reactive.”
In addition to the expectations we have of ourselves, we also have expectations of others. Many of them are very clear, others not so much. Most of the time, they can be identified by the judgments we have inside. For example: “My boss should be more tolerant. “My spouse should be more available.” or “My co-workers should help out more.” “My siblings should help with my parent’s care. And we have circumstantial expectations, such as: “The Germans should be kinder” “Men should be like this and woman should be like that.” These are but a few examples.
If you pause for a moment you will see that you have many, many expectations of yourself, others, your countrymen and women, politicians, etc..
Before I go into the 5 steps to help you manage your expectations, and your emotions when they are not met, let me say a word or two about expectations as they are tricky.
As I mentioned before, expectations are not always clear and not always conscious, meaning that we are not aware of them. But with some good questioning and curiosity, expectations can be uncovered quickly. A good indicator that there is an expectation of self and/or other is the presence of anger, frustration or disappointment regarding the outcome of an interaction.
I do want to acknowledge the fact that some of you might think that expectations are a good thing. Maybe you can learn from false anticipations. I don’t doubt that, but the focus of this article is to deal with ways that leave us feeling empowered when we are feeling disempowered because things don’t go the way we had expected.
Ready? Okay. So, how do we let go of expectations that are causing us to feel negative? Let me show you my 5-step process that came out of a recent coaching session with a client.
My executive coaching client was feeling upset about the relationship with his boss. My client, through skillful negotiations, elicited a large order from a disgruntled client. That one order accounted for 21% of the annual sales goal. A day after he closed a big sale, my client went to work expecting his boss to acknowledge and celebrate the achievement. Instead, the boss attended to his regular duties and offered nothing more than a word of “thanks.”
After talking for a while I guided my executive coaching client through the following 5 steps. (I am giving you a shortened version of the process).
1. What are your expectations in this situation?
My expectations are to be acknowledged and praised for my efforts.
2. What are your specific expectations?
I want my boss to tell me what a great job I did. I want to be seen and I want him to share it with everybody.
3. What judgments have resulted from your disappointment?
I judge my boss for being a poor boss. He doesn’t know how to lead his people and I am not sure how much longer I am willing to work for someone who doesn’t see his people.
4. Forgive yourself and the person(s).
After explaining the process of forgiveness to him (this is mainly a biochemical process not meant to be spiritual) I asked him to complete the following statements.
I forgive myself for judging my boss …
I forgive myself for judging myself for …
When you are done with the forgiveness statements say: “I let all of this go”. (For more info on forgiveness go to Muscle Testing App - go to the end of the page where I write about the forgiveness process.)
5. What’s next? Now that you are done with this process, consciously decide where to direct your energy.
I choose to focus on appreciating myself and I am going to focus on how to make another big sale.
After we went through the process, my executive coaching client decided to practice the 5 steps some more. He brought to mind a few personal examples of him having expectations. Together we identified and he was able to let go of the expectations he had about his father and mother have to be a certain way.
I know that this subject can be quite intense. This 5 step model is meant to give you an opportunity to get some awareness and to direct/manage yourself. Essentially this is a model that will allow you to become a more effective leader or manager as it will help you improve your emotional intelligence.
Don’t hesitate to contact me for questions but sure let me know how it worked for you.
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