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Why We Must Let Go of Expectations

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You may have remembered from my post earlier this year that I was planning a month-long trip to Australia, Bali and Hong Kong. I’d mentioned that this trip was a long, long time coming—something I’ve wanted to do for over a decade.

For a few weeks after I booked my flights, the excitement was intense. I couldn’t wait to plan what I would do, where I would stay and have friends connect me to their friends in the cities I would be visiting. I envisioned a fabulous, relaxing trip full of fun, adventure and maybe even a little romance. However, my expectations were high, and I didn’t account for the fact that real life doesn’t take a vacation.

The thing about expectations is that they rarely lead to happiness. In fact, more often than not, our expectations deliver nothing but disappointment. {Tweet it!}

So when my back went out, I lost my credit card and I encountered let’s just say some not so nice people, I got REALLY upset. All of a sudden the “bad” overtook the good, and it became very difficult to turn it around. My attachment to the way I had expected my trip to go sent me into survival mode, and I spent a good majority of the trip simply surviving until I could make it back to the states.

Sometimes you don’t even know you’re setting absurd expectations. You may mistake them for clarity on what your want, or high standards or whatever, but honestly expectations are just a set of arbitrary guidelines you made up in your head.

I don’t think expectations are entirely bad or useless, but we have to be willing to let go of them at a moment’s notice and deal with the present moment powerfully. Most of us, myself included, aren’t always so good at that.

Despite everything that went “wrong” I don’t want you to think that the trip was a waste. I admit I slipped into that thought from time to time along the way, but each time I did something would happen—I’d meet a kind and beautiful person, I’d experience something I never had before (like surfing in Byron Bay or the hospitality of the Indonesian people or the infamous and quite hilariously random mouse on the plane incident on my first flight over to Hong Kong).

When these things would happen, they would remind me that sometimes reality can exceed your expectations. I didn’t plan for any of those awesome experiences and yet they ended up being the highlights of my trip.

Practice letting go, especially of expectations. Because when you start to master letting go, you will see there is so much to be gained.

I Do Not Want To Wait Anymore (You Shouldn’t Either)

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I do not want to wait anymore. Seriously, I don’t. I’ve had dreams to go to Australia, specifically Sydney, since I was 20. For those of you who don’t know, that’s—well—over a decade. I can’t explain why Australia, other than there has always been this sort of gravitational pull calling out to me and over the years that call kept getting louder. I’ve had opportunities to go, and stay for free, and yet I never took the plunge.

There are many reasons for this, excuses really, and they have kept me from doing this thing I want to do. During the holidays, I revisited the idea of this trip again, and when I discovered how close Australia and Bali are to each other, I thought to myself, Now, that could be an interesting trip—part fun and sun, part adventure and spiritual discovery. And just as I was “full on” (as they say in Australia) getting beyond excited about the trip, BAM!, all the fears from the past came creeping back up.

Is this too expensive? What if I can’t sleep on the 15+ hour flight? What if I get sick? Where will I stay? Will this trip be as fun if I do it alone? Should I wait for a more perfect time?

For days I was confronted by the fears of what could go wrong, which totally took my focus off everything that could make this trip amazing. Until finally, I realized I didn’t want to wait anymore.

Waiting for the right time, the perfect time, is like trying to time the stock market. Good luck. {Tweet it!}

So the conversation I started having with myself shifted and eventually became something like this:

My Cautious Self: Can you put a price tag on seeing the world? On exposure to other views, other ways of life?

The Wise Me: No

My Cautious Self: Is it really the end of the world if you don’t sleep for a day?

The Wise Me: No

My Cautious Self: Doesn’t everything always just sort of fall into place anyway?

The Wise Me: Why, yes. Actually it does, Self. Thank you for reminding us of that.

And with that, all of the uncertainty and fear fell away—at least for the time being. Ultimately it is more important that I stand for courage and help inspire it in others than take the easy and more comfortable way out of something that scares me. That is how I want to live my life and to make choices as they come my way.

What will you stand for? What dreams will you refuse to give away even in the face of extreme fear and uncertainty?

What are the things you have wanted to do all your life? Whatever they are, do them. Do not wait. Stop thinking about it and just go for it.