The expectations we place on people and experiences can end up making us miserable. But if we allow ourselves to let go of expectation, we open ourselves up to a new perspective and a happier state of being.
Let me bring this idea to life for you with a little light-hearted story…
As a kid, I had a poster on my wall of a palm tree gently bending over a perfect crescent of golden sand. Hammock swaying invitingly underneath.
On a rainy day in Sheffield it was my dream to one day travel to sun-drenched Hawaii and lie in that hammock on that tropical beach. However, what with Hawaii being in the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the world - a long, long way from Sheffield – it seemed fairly unlikely it was ever going to happen.
Yet, 30 years later there I was about to step off the plane in Maui.
Those perfect images I had dreamt up in my mind as a child were in my head as the plane touched down…in the driving rain and wind.
What!? This is not supposed to happen in (my perfectly imagined) Hawaii!!
“Just one of those warm tropical showers I guess” I said convincingly to the family (or probably my inner child) as we stood getting our sunhats drenched waiting for the rental car. It turned out we visited Hawaii during the worst weather they had seen in a generation. Hmmm, this was not fitting with my dream scenario.
Now, as a life coach, I firmly believe in the power of positive thinking and so I decided to see this as an ideal scenario to practise letting go of expectation.
And, wow I’m glad I did. My perspective and therefore, my experience, completely shifted. Here’s 5 examples…
1. The wind meant the beaches were not always littered with sunbathers so we could appreciate their wind swept and epic beauty.
2. The rain meant rainbows. Lots of ‘em. Like I’ve never seen before. Perfect arcs stretching over volcanic mountains and dropping into the ocean. It literally took my breath away.
3. The intermittent sun meant our young kids could run about all day without getting hot and bothered. They had way more energy, which meant we could get out and explore…
4. We jumped in our basic jeep (in my eyes ‘the fabulous Barbie jeep I always wanted as a kid’) and hit the road. We discovered canyons, waterfalls, trees like something out of a Tolkien book and tiny coves with crashing waves. We took hula dancing and ukulele lessons with a charismatic Hawaiian granny and walked along the cliffs to a deserted beach. On the way back from this walk, we got caught in a huge windy downpour and there was nothing to do but embrace the elements. It was fun and funny and we felt alive (if a little soggy)!
5. We also went on the sunset sail we had booked even though the weather looked decidedly dodgy. We were lucky and it was dry for most of the trip but we did get caught in one very heavy down pour. You know what though, it was exciting! And when it finished, the captain played ‘I can see clearly now the rain has gone’ over the pa and we danced barefoot on the deck. We felt carefree and completely in the moment.
The whole family agreed that this holiday was up there as one of the best. The worst weather in a generation actually meant we had amazing experiences we probably wouldn’t have had if the weather had been constantly warm and sunny. Frankly, the kids would not have allowed us to leave the pool and their inflatable dolphins!
So, I remind myself that when I allow myself to let go of expectation, of how I perceive something is supposed to be, embrace what is and try to retain a positive mindset, new opportunities appear. And they just might be the very best bits.