Man, did Pam and I have a day last Saturday May 23, 2015! Our 22 year old son made his Dodger Stadium debut as the catcher for the San Diego Padres. He was “called up” two weeks ago. Unreal! We sat in the suite of his agent, Scott Boras, ate fabulous (and free) food and reveled with 8 family and friends.
I have dreamed of watching him play in the Big Leagues… but I can’t say I ever thoughtfully expected it. And that is a good thing. Because we expected nothing we received everything.
Don’t Expect Anything, Be Surprised By Everything
Expectations are dangerous. And yet we do it all the time. Almost never does the reality match what we were anticipating. Good things are rarely as good and bad things are usually not as bad. I think we generally expect too much. The best of times and the worst of times seem to come only when we are totally unprepared for them.
But “expectations” are only natural. Expectations occur when we “anticipate” and create scenarios for upcoming events. The problem comes when we “concretize” them and are disappointed when they fail to come true.
My best experiences have occurred when I expected little or nothing. The greatest of experiences are almost always a surprise.
Life in the Good Ole USA
Life is best lived, not one day at a time, but one moment at a time. Yet we have become so “expectation-oriented.” Americans are the worst. We have been taught from the crib to set goals which easily become expectations.
Raised in the United States, middle class and above, is a treat. We are among the most fortunate people in the world. We have food and clothes and houses and cars and, depending on your income, a bunch of discretionary cash. We’re certainly in the top 5% of people in the world. (I seem to recall reading top 2% somewhere.)
And yet, the great many of us are a bunch of sad, hungry for more, and dissatisfied people.
Why is that?
Insights from the Most Honorable Guides
The greatest spiritual teachings throughout the world point us against setting high expectations and invite us to simply live daily, taking in life as it comes.
The Bible points us to a powerful act called “grace” by which we receive the goodness of God through no acts of our own. They are given because God is a Giver. Life, love, happiness, trials, growth and union with God are all a matter of this thing called “grace.”
The Tao refers to it a “wu-wei,” a very difficult word to translate but which loosely means “unattached action.” I absolutely love the concept. We “act” without expecting any “result.” Our job is merely to faithfully do the labor given to us daily and allow the Tao (or hand of God) to offer the result. All without expecting anything, except embracing a meaningful day of work or play or giving and serving.
Just yesterday I went to a reunion which, as an introvert, is something I never do. It was a group of gymnasts from High School that won a major area-wide season championship called CIF. I thought it would be nice to see these guys, but I certainly wasn’t expecting anything.
Then I saw Coach Eads. 87 years old looking not much different than he did at 37. And I fell in love. I had forgotten the impact that man had on my life. I am the man I am today partially because of him. I cried with happiness. (Yea, I may be an introvert but I’m also sentimental.) Totally unexpected, it was a surprise!
To “Expect” or Not to “Expect”
How about you? Have you ever been disappointed because you expected too much? We “expect” vacations to be ideal, to have certain family members behave differently than they have their entire lives, for our children to excel, for our bosses and co-workers to be decent human beings. This list goes on… and so does our sadness and frustration.
What if we made a conscious choice to live moment to moment in the serenity and peace of grace and wu-wei? I think we would find a great sense of joy. Right this moment I have an opportunity to do just that.
In two weeks I am leaving for Europe. I expect my new website to be complete, all the new videos in place, the social media set up, and all the pages of the website fully composed. I also expect to film interviews in Paris, Brussels, Bruges, Gent, and Amsterdam that I will send back for you to enjoy as you get a sense of Meaning, Adventure, and Awe from the perspective of people in other cultures.
Uh-oh. Did you notice? “I expect to…” In truth, all or some or none of that will happen. I don’t know. It is written, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city. We will spend a year there… and make money. But you don’t even know what is going to happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is a mist that disappears. Instead you should say, “If the Lord pleases…”” Or “If life allows…”
Wouldn’t it be nice to be one of those guru-type guys who always seem to be serene and at peace? (In truth, I’ve never actually met one, but I’ve heard of them. Haha) Still, it would be nice.
Let’s Try Something Different This Time
Perhaps we should experiment with this serenity thing together. Let’s try it for a week. Here are some ideas:
1. Fight and erase the temptation to expect too much or too little, EVERY DAY.
2. Embrace each moment, fully aware of the joy or awe or even disappointment.
3. Look first to love and be loved—treasure it. Good things come when we are “open-hearted.”
4. Don’t miss (or take for granted) the surprises that will surely come.
Okay. I know. I’m asking for the impossible—at least impossible for me. But I’m gonna try. I will make a conscious choice during my morning routine to practice serenity and the freedom of non-expectant living! How about you?