No Expectations

Over the past few months, my weekly articles have featured excerpts from my REACH book, introducing some consciousness-raising tools. It gave me great joy to be able to share these tools because they are vital parts of the Divine assignment I accepted in authoring my book. For this week, however, I’m not going to introduce any more tools. Instead, I’d like to share a personal lesson about expectations.

Fear comes from expectations

This lesson came from an experience with a great spiritual teacher, Tony Redhouse, who says that expectations lead to judgment, which, in turn, produce fear. Here’s my understanding: When we expect people to behave in a certain way, things to line up in a specific manner, we become wedded to that particular outcome. When our expectations aren’t met, our world as we perceive it is out of whack, and it threatens our feelings of safety. That fear prompts (sometimes preemptive) controlling behavior, which ultimately creates hardship for us and others involved. Just think about how often that dynamic plays out in relationships of all kinds.

If we want to be free and live fearlessly, we need to let go of all expectations. That, of course, sounds great, but is it as easily done as said? Don’t know about you, but it isn’t quite so easy for me.

We cheat ourselves by having expectations

I had a one-on-one session with Tony this past Tuesday evening. Until we were debriefing on what I got from the first meditation he led me through, I didn’t realize that I had gone into the session full of expectations. That first meditation was intended to bring me back to the consciousness of being in my mother’s womb, being protected and bathed in the safety of unconditional love. I know very well how exquisite being wrapped up by Pure Love feels from my near-death experience a few years ago. However, to my great disappointment, I didn’t get to feel that safety or love in the meditation. Instead, what kept grabbing my attention was the turmoil my mother felt in her life, along with her hopes and expectations that having children would finally make her happy.

I felt totally cheated out of the experience I really wanted—and expected to have—with Tony. I didn’t feel nurtured or loved at all in the meditation as it was intended to facilitate. I didn’t feel light and free coming out of the meditation, contrary to what I expected. I became aware of internal judgments that I did the meditation “wrong.” After all, even though my power center (stomach area) felt warm and activated throughout the meditation, indicating that I was responding to it, I wasn’t able to block out Mom’s energy and follow Tony’s mesmerizing drumming and soothing words. Really? After all the years of therapy and spiritual work I had done to distill my own truth and purpose in this life from my mom’s expectations? 

Of course, I didn’t do the meditation wrong. Tony helped me realize that the meditation did what it was meant to do for me personally. It showed me that my desire to honor my mother’s expectations was still blocking my ability to tap into and express the pure love within me to live fearlessly the life I was born to live.

A personal lesson

Stripping away my expectations for the session with Tony and my judgments of how much work I have already done to disentangle myself from my mother’s hopes and fears, I can see what I really need to see. That is, a mother’s influence in the foundation of our lives truly runs deep, beginning with the very first heartbeat of hers we heard while in her womb. Who doesn’t want to earn our mother’s love by honoring what she wants and taking away her pain? Except love doesn’t need to be earned, and we aren’t here in this life to fulfill others’ dreams or to take away their pain, not even our mother’s. We can help them, but we simply can’t do any of that for them. I can’t do it for my mother, no matter how much I love her and honor her for the woman she is and what she has overcome in her life—and how grateful I am to her for giving me life and for having loved me from the start the best she knew/knows how.

I was born to live my best life that is distinctly and authentically mine, expressing the true essence and grace of my spirit. Best doesn’t mean perfect, but a vow to be true to myself, even if it means defying conventional expectations sometimes and not following the pack for fear of being left out. It is being good with not knowing, trusting that what I need to know is always revealed to me at the right time. It is surrendering to the flow, instead of laboring to resist the current, honoring the ups and downs of this human experience with a grateful and forgiving heart. Living my best life means that, in the end, I’ll have no regrets for having done anything that was mine to do, even if it led to falling hard sometimes, while celebrating wins, breakthroughs and comebacks at other times. It entails counting my blessings each and every day, and remembering to recognize magic and miracles—by not impairing my own vision with expectations of how life ought to look like. Most of all, living my best life comes from tuning into my own heartbeat and trusting my Divine inner compass to show me the way.

No expectations: An intention

To come full circle, it all boils down to Tony’s wise teaching. When we are free of expectations, wherever they originate, we free ourselves of judgment. Without judgment, there is no trigger for fear. And to take Tony’s wisdom one step further, without fear, we have no need to control anyone or anything, including ourselves or how our lives must play out.

I hereby set the intention to do my best in keeping expectations in check. Care to join me in setting this intention in your own life?

About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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Hi Alice- What a wonderful post! I have been personally aware of, and working with, the "expectation thing" for quite a while. However, it has all been conceptual points of light that have not merged up to this point. Something about your eloquent message, so simply written, has just brought everything all together for me. I feel like I am basking in the noon sun at the beach! How great is that? Thank you!

Scott Mabry
Scott Mabry

Great post Alice. I enjoy reading your work and am inspired to check out the book as well. Even though my focus is leadership there is so much that applies here. Leadership is an inside out process. I suffered unnecessarily today due to expecations that I created in my mind only to find out they were not real. Thank you for the helpful story.


Thank you, dear Alice! This is just what I needed to hear this morning.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thanks, Carol! I love that you're "basking in the noon sun at the beach!" That's such a great image to have on a Saturday morning - thank you! Having expectations is part of being human; we can't avoid it. It's really what we do when we realize we've inadvertently formed expectations that makes the difference. That's why detachment is such an important practice in Buddhist traditions and some New Thought philosophy. I'm in the camp along with some people I know that, when it comes to a burning desire or something we really want, the best we can do is "high intention, low attachment." That is, intend to get ourselves energetically aligned to be a match for our desires without becoming hung up on the specific outcomes. Thank you again for sharing part of your Saturday morning with me, Carol. Many Blessings to you.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thank you for your comments, Scott! It's refreshing to read your beliefs about leadership being an inside job. If everyone has the humility and self-awareness that you have, the world would be filled with inspiring leaders modeling the way, whether or not they officially manage/lead anyone. On your other point, we do unknowingly create unnecessary suffering for ourselves through our thoughts, don't we? That's why I'm so passionate about raising consciousness--both continuously learning and practicing myself and sharing with others--as that's how we minimize falling prey to the illusions we create in our own minds.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

You're so very welcome, Beautiful Laurie! Glad that this message is coming through me at the right time for you!

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