Sunday, August 21, 2022

Musings - Holding Expectations Loosely

"It's not about what you have or even the season
of life that you are in, but it's about your mindset."

As a girl, I remember having a kind of impression that life should line up with my expectations. I brought that viewpoint into my young adulthood. I wanted something to look a certain way and be certain way. And when things didn't turn out as I expected, I was not best pleased. In fact, sometimes I was just plain offended and peevish about it. As if life owed me. As if people owed me. Perhaps we're born with that expectation. We've probably all wailed at one time or another, 'But it's not fair!'—the universal response to someone expecting a different outcome. Of course, it didn’t help if I didn’t voice what I wanted. And as a timid young person I was good at not saying what I wanted, but that’s a different story for another day.

I came to realize that I had expectations of other people and I certainly felt people expecting something from me. Sometimes I was okay with that, sometimes I felt put upon, especially when it was expected of me to be involved in something I had no interest in. Still I saw it as the give and take in life. I eventually came to see that everyone has to live their own life, and it wasn't my place to put my expectations on others, as if they owed me happiness. That goes both ways.

Of course we can and should expect certain standards, but when the coffee at the bistro isn't absolutely delicious one day, and when I do need sunshine instead of rain to brighten my current mood, and yes, it would be so much nicer to always rub shoulders with courteous, kinder folk—when it didn't happen, how did I learn to keep disappointment from disturbing my inner sense of tranquility?

The game changer for me was learning to hold my own expectations loosely. It was also learning to hold loosely the expectations other folks had for me. So what does holding one's expectations loosely mean exactly? I like the way one online article said that holding expectations loosely doesn't mean giving them up altogether, but rather it's "letting go of urgency, rigidity, and the need for things to be 'just so' ". Oh yes, I recognize that impulse to want things to be ‘just so’. It doesn't matter how amiable and easygoing we are, we still have certain expectations. We go out for a special meal, of course we hope the ambiance will be just right, for the meal to be extraordinaire, and for our dining partners to be in fine form conversationally. We want that something special on our holidays, our anniversaries, birthdays, and Christmas. Not to mention that we want it in all the little daily goings on in between.

I came to see that basing my happiness on imperfect circumstances and shifting moods of other people is a guarantee for disappointment. As I loosened my tight grip on my expectations of how things should be and look and feel, not be so rigid with the need for them to be 'just so'—then even in the middle of bad hair days and monthly moodiness, I was able to keep more tranquil within. 

I began to search for the good 'in the midst'. I began to seek the beauty around the ugly stuff. I asked for the grace to wake in the mornings with vitality and good humour. Someone shared this quote recently from Anne Lamott. It seems to be a good way to sum up:
"Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns."
Reading between the lines, I think it also means holding expectations more loosely and easily. Another aspect of how we can live our lives more beautifully.

Wishing you grace for the day,

Top Image by Peter H from Pixabay


  1. Oh yes! Life is so much easier when we are able to recognize and let go of the high (and often unreasonable) expectations we have of circumstances and people, including ourselves. Yet it feels like a daily challenge to do so, to remember that done is better than undone, and that love lives and lets live. A most excellent subject to muse upon!

  2. Yes! Presiding Queen of Expectations for many is Christmas, which we eventually catch onto comes and finds us right in the midst of whatever situation exists in our personal worlds and the globe in general. Great post Brenda!

  3. Lovely thoughtful words, dear Brenda. I am very bad at having expectations and then getting miffed if things dont line up! But I have learnt to let go to a great extent, and to grit my teeth when, for example, a delivery man who I have never ever met, calls me 'Barbara'. My grandma would be so shocked.

  4. Oh, I can so relate to unmet expectations in life. I too, have often kept those expectations to myself and then became sad when they were not met. I think I'm learning to let go. Goodness, if I don't learn soon, it may be too late. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. I agree and, on the other hand, it is also important to have expectations. If we expect nothing, we'll certainly never be disappointed; however, life will be pretty dull and we will not excel.

  6. What a poignant and important post Brenda!!!! As children we often are “taught” to think or act in certain ways. At 70 I am just beginning to “relax” some of my expectations or at least rethink a few of them. Can I give up the idea ( at 70🤣) that I am not going to still pursue “Ministry” and “accept” that that is ok.
    In terms of “others;” am always trying to be “more loose🌝) with acceptance rather than judging. “Judging” stems from an expectation of other’s responses
    Hardest of all which one reader responded to is our expectations for ourself! That’s why we need friends and “wise and fun friends like you to learn to take a deep breath, loosen those strings and enjoy!!!!!!!
    SO appreciate you, your thoughts and time you take to “go to” the “deep,” “fun and beautiful!!!!!”
    THANK YOU!!! Hope you have a WONDERFUL week!!!~ Ann

  7. That was a wonderful column, Brenda, and one I needed very badly. One mantra pertaining to expectations comes straight from 12 step programs. It's one I always loved: "Expectations are resentments waiting to happen." Oh boy, I've learned that one by experience! Thanks for the lovely thoughts. They were excellent reminders that one's attitude is imperative, especially when facing others or difficult circumstances. Otherwise, we get stuck in the mud. Susan

  8. This timely post is just what I needed to read. One expectation that I've learned to let go is speedy responses to (non-urgent) e-mails or messages. LOL.

  9. Love these ideas which make sense to me as I'm rereading my old journals from the past 60 years...aand seeing how my expectations blinded me at the time to the joy that was there. Now I'm learning to find that in each day.

  10. Anonymous is Lin

  11. I'm into my 70th year and seem to be walking along on this "realization" path with you. I wish I had learned these much earlier, it would have saved me lots of heartbreak. But faith always burns within and life is truly beautiful and has given many joys to be appreciated. God bless you Bren and watch over you.

  12. Dear Brenda, this is a lovely post and so inspiring. You really hit the mark with this one and has given me much to ponder. I don't believe there is a human alive who has not been guilty of wanting things just so. I read in one of Alexandra's books many years ago that perfection is cold. I never forgot that and have tried since not to be demanding of how I wanted things.

  13. Such wise and thoughtful words, Brenda. I know that I've had to come to grips with expectations for myself, and for others. Life is not always what we expect, and learning to accept that with grace is a process, for me.


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xox

PS. I do not always comment here, but I do look forward to coming and visiting you....