Expectations and Delight
It's almost uncomfortable for me to type those two words in the same line. Expectations and delight rarely, if ever, seem to be in the same room with one another. You see, any time we have expectations for something or someone to be a certain way, we set ourselves up for disappointment (the opposite of delight). Those of us who tend to have high expectations of ourselves, others, or the way life should be, also tend to have the largest delight deficit. Delight occurs when we embrace the present moment, as it is, and stand ready to celebrate the smallest element of beauty in the midst of this messy life. If you're not tracking with me yet, allow me to share some examples:
A 30 year old who expected she would be in a certain place in her career, be married, and have a family, finds herself going back to school, working 3 part time jobs to make ends meet, and single without kids. Experiencing regular panic attacks, she lives in the shadow of unmet expectations and every day she wakes up she tells herself, "I'll be happy when......", instead of, "today, I stand in a gap of where I've come and where I would like to be. Today, I delight in every courageous step I take to learn, grow, and invest in life-giving relationships."
A 17 year old whose life dream was to go to an Ivy League College gets a full ride scholarship to his state University. He finds himself paralyzed by indecision and shame. "If I chose the full ride, I'll be reducing myself to less than the best, I'll be a disappointment". "If I choose Harvard, I'll be irresponsible and in debt for the rest of my life". "Both options stink!". This student is missing out on celebrating his achievements and acceptance letter to Harvard and the full ride to his state University. He is living in the reality of what he can't have instead of what he can.
A 26 year old dreamed of being a mom and the kind of mom she would be - present, educational, full of energy, able to manage her household, family, and career elegantly. Yet this woman is experiencing extreme doubt - "I'm can't do this! I'm a horrible mom, wife, professional, and friend. I'm exhausted and letting everyone down. Everyone would be better off without me". She battles postpartum depression. This woman is also living in the shadow of unrealized expectations. All she can see is where she falls short instead of where she shows up. What she is not seeing is all that she IS doing. She is not seeing every diaper she is changing, every feeding she is offering, every item of clothing she is folding, every email she is responding to, and each step she is taking against the grain of what she feels like doing because she is driven by the values of love and determination.
Is any of this starting to sound familiar to you? If so, I have good news! You can experience delight TODAY! You can choose today to let go of expectations, and if letting go is too hard, start with just holding expectations loosely. Choose to breathe, connect with the present moment, and identify 3 things that you have in front of you to be thankful for. Go ahead, express gratitude for those 3 things. Finally, choose today to move forward in that gratitude and take actions on things that matter and give you life. And when you take those actions, celebrate them! That took courage. You've taken one step toward a life of delight.