Expectations. Or How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Day
“You must learn to welcome consciously the most unexpected events of life, to be entirely transparent in front of them, without any motive, either right or wrong. At that moment avoid all judgment, for you do not know what law is in operation” --Lizelle Reymond
As I got ready for work yesterday, I was thinking “Wow, I have a busy day ahead!” I was facing a heavy meeting schedule to kick off some new projects and was looking forward to them with anticipation. Several of the projects had recently fallen through due to lack of funds or other resources, but finally, I had some I could sink my teeth into. I finally was getting a chance to prove myself, to feel more part of the team and feel a a sense of job security.
As you may have guessed from that build up, by the time I actually sat down at my computer, the first big meeting, full of potential, had been postponed. I was told it was postponed for just two more day so that the rest of the team could get up to speed, but still it changed my morning. I had an expectation that hadn't been met. I assumed that because I had planned, things would happen the way that I had planned them. Ha ha, right?
This is not an unusual or tragic situation, but it threw me off my game. Sure, there were a lot of other tasks I could attend to, but I just didn’t feel like it. So after that, I basically wasted the next hour—checking emails, getting something to drink, mostly feeling sorry for myself because the morning did not go according to my plans. This incident impacted the rest of the day too. I had planned to work on the next steps from that meeting. But after a while longer and a few more meetings, I picked up some momentum and finished the day productively.
In practice, I teach my students to “let go of expectations”. I say “how can we have an expectation of a moment if we have not been there before? And, as each moment is new, we have to approach it with a beginners mind, because we really don’t know what awaits us in that moment.” In business, of course, you must make plans. You must get people together and to do that you have to have an agreed upon date and time. But in the office, and on our mats, things can change at a moment’s notice. Or sometimes you don’t even get that moment—things just change. Our practice teaches us to look at what is in the moment and not to dwell on our expectations of the moment. A postponed meeting is just one example. How about the presentation you have been preparing for weeks that the client no longer wants? Or the new employee you really need to hire and after five rounds of interviews, there is a hiring freeze? Or the you get a call from someone who is heading up a project you thought you were heading up? All of these experiences can throw us off because of our expectations.
Can we, instead of holding expectations in the workplace, simply set intentions? I teach my students that their intentions are their own personal tour guides or MapQuests for their practice—they simple guide you through the path. If things change along the way, MapQuest sends us a blinking “recalculating” message and allows us to continue. (Of course we see that the map apps sometimes have applications and spend a good minute or more blinking “turn around” before the app realizes that we have to find another route—one cannot always turn around, and after a while it is too late to turn around you find another way…)
Lisa Feder is a Yoga Instructor, Personal Trainer and Corporate Wellness Consultant. Read more