Great Expectations

Lessons on the Road #4

It’s the marathon! Scores, results, league tables and the seasonal time for (transcendental) competition. All of a sudden your performance, proficiency and position is in the spotlight, and it feels like everyone is watching, sizing you up. For some it’s entirely unnerving, for others it’s positively motivating. Some of us run a mile, and others relish the challenge. To a greater or lesser extent, we are all affected in some way. Our life is so much shaped by the expectations of those around us. And how many expectations there are, many of which are diametrically opposed! How do we harness pressure and attention to create growth? How do we avoid become overwhelmed and overburdened? How do we keep everyone happy? Is it humanly possible to live up to all of these expectations, and should we even try?

We have to be careful not to lose ourselves in the voices of the world. Thomas Cooley writes: “I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am!” If you didn’t get that, try reading it again. If it’s still unclear, don’t worry – the essential point is that many of us have become hijacked by expectations and disconnected from our authentic self. Life is packed with a host of pressures from family, friends, society and the media to be a certain type of person. In the mad rush to meet all those demands we’re left with little scope to pursue our own calling. In the bid to satisfy everyone, we could end up somewhat bitter and miserable. After all, *we* have to live our life.

But let’s not go to an extreme. There is more to life than just doing we *we* want. Pleasing those around us, sacrificing our own plans for a higher cause and learning to be flexible to the desires and expectations of others also moulds our spiritual character. The expectations of others can be unimaginably empowering. It’s a unique gift to have someone in our life who has a greater vision for us than we could have come up with ourselves. Others can open us up to a world we never knew existed. We should avoid the extreme of shying away from all expectations. The key is to respect everyone, but to embrace the expectations of certain individuals with more seriousness. If you try to please everyone you’ll end up pleasing no one. Those who know you, feel for you and can actually help you (on all levels) – their expectations count for more. Their expectations will be realistic, realised and truly rewarding. In their words of expectation comes the empowerment to meet those expectations, and our lives thus become a transcendental drama. We must learn the art of riding the fast-flowing river of expectations, and not drowning in it.