Let It Go - Embrace Hope
At a certain age most of us learn to release life’s experiences.
I recently asked a friend, “At what age do you remember realizing that it’s better to accept life’s experiences for what they are?” After a discussion, we concluded that while the shift from personal desire to embracing experiences continues, the tipping point happened in our thirties. We must own our behaviors and take responsibility for our intentions, but the outcomes do not belong to us.
We are told that specific actions produce a desired result. However, life often reveals this is not true. We can’t be certain that our expectations will be fulfilled no matter what we do. There appears to always be an exception to the rule, especially for me personally. The career path that worked for so many, doesn’t work for me. The best methods of marketing and self-promotion can’t be repeated in my experience. Even popular diets and exercise routines impact my health and appearance in atypical ways. Life is a personal experience. We alone are responsible for enjoying it and for figuring out the nuanced variations on typical methods that work best for us. Regarding outcomes, we are surprised when we least expect it. A diet doesn’t work. An exercise routine leads to injury. A relationship falls apart for reasons that we don’t understand and may not control.
After the practice of living life begins, we start to more clearly see a basic truth. Attachments to outcomes and expectations of situations nearly always disappoint and cause pain. Even when the outcome is good and desirable, we quickly become bored. The new diet and exercise routine produced the body I wanted, now what. I invested by following a certain method and I grew richer, but what is next. Maybe the new habits become permanent or maybe they are replaced with a new fad. Either way, the outcome either disappoints or becomes routine and boring.
Compliments are nice. Praise for achieving our goals puffs up our egos and gives a short-lived sense of accomplishment. We may remember that praise long after the world has forgotten. “Remember when” can be nostalgic fun, but past accomplishments only live on if they changed our behaviors and improved our understanding. To experience greater peace and contentment, and even a consistent joy in life, we have to let go of the outcomes. Let it be.
Two popular songs in my lifetime have driven this simple truth home. In my youth, the Beatles gave us “Let It Be” which imprinted the idea that “Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” Here in the second half of my life, we’ve had Queen Elsa in the Disney story “Frozen” chant “Let it go” at the top of her range. The principle is the same: don’t worry about the results. Our responsibility lies only in doing our best in each moment. Expectations nearly always disappoint and expectations of ourselves to achieve specific material goals can be crippling and sometimes even deadly. What is the main cause of depression: disappointment. When life doesn’t meet our expectations we become disillusioned.
Replace disillusion with joy, by replacing expectations with hope. Hope is the belief and eventually the knowing that the best outcomes, ones that far exceed anything you can imagine, have already been prepared for your enjoyment. Startup companies with unproven products and services may succeed because the only goal is to produce the best product or service, and let the outcome be whatever that may be. Startups are expected to fail. In the USA, the federal small business administration analyzed the data and found that 90% of startups fail.
It would be a good sociological/psychological study to determine how often expectations are not met. I expect disappointment is greater than 90%. Observe people who find great joy in life and you’ll soon realize that they live in the moment and accept most outcomes with an even mind.
Celebrate achievements. Affirm and support success. Offer insights into potentially recreating a similar success. However, if you wish to be happy throughout life, let go of expectations. When the outcomes don’t align with expectations, let it be. Foster a sense of hope which is knowing that better results await the person who has no expectations at all. Live a hopeful life, not one tainted by specific desires.