Letting Go Of Expectations

We tend to carry many expectations and emotional investments over our past, present, and future lives. Letting go of these can be one of the hardest things we will ever do but at the same time it can also be the most rewarding. 

We can free ourselves from any emotional strife we hold over our past through acceptance and understanding that our journey is a part of us but not our whole. 

We can express gratitude for all that we have and carry pride for who we are so we may enjoy our present life without self-depreciation and feeling as though we 'should' be doing better. 

We can humbly admit that we cannot control our lives but simply influence their direction, therefore releasing the need to control our future which only takes us away from the things in our lives that matter. 

Chiefly our expectations stem from a fearful need for constant safety and the avoidance of emotional discomfort.

We continually wish for our past to have played out differently because we have not turned to face the shame or guilt we hold over certain events.

We attach our self-worth to achievements and ideals, many of which are dictated by culture and driven by own our lack of self-esteem. 

We are so deeply afraid of making a wrong move that we attempt to figure our way out of danger, or failing that we stay frozen in the perceived safety of our mediocre lives. 

When we fear that making a change could derail us we give up the chance to truly live our lives, to live a life of adventure, mystery, and excitement.

(Where is the excitement in knowing every single thing that will happen?) 

If we can allow ourselves to be free of any preconceived ideal whether from us or society, we can begin on a path of self-love and self-acceptance. We give ourselves room to adapt when things inevitably change, we grant ourselves the freedom to flow through any situation and we trust ourselves to be able to handle anything that we get presented.

This is how we may live a life truly open, free and unencumbered.

If you would like to hear us discuss the topic of expectations and how to begin the process of letting go, check out episode #006 of The Podcast here.


Matthew 0:10  

Hello and welcome to episode six of Foxes Collide, my name is Matthew.

Ellen 0:24  

And I'm Ellen. 

Matthew 0:38  

Episode six is going to be on letting go of expectations. This is something from Tony Robbins, expectation is a belief about the future but the context we're using here is, yes the future but also the past and the present. Ultimately [expectations] are the preferences we have, the things we set in our mind of how we think it should have gone in the past, how life should be right now and how life should go in the future. A lot of 'should' in there and we're going to talk about that word.

Ellen 1:38  

Our favourite word.

Matthew 1:40  

But let's begin with the past and how we believe things should have gone. We get very hung up on how things have happened or not happened and we bring that emotional suffering back again and again and again, something that's momentary, something that's technically past us. We have a knack for bringing them back and experiencing it all over again.

Ellen 2:12  

Reliving those moments over and over again in our head and going why did it go this way? Why did that happen? So ultimately you're reliving your story of the past over and over again, you're reliving those emotions that are not necessary, they're not serving you in any way, that story has passed, you can't change it so it's not bringing you any positive benefits in the present moment.

Matthew 2:44  

Yeah it's interesting because we have the opportunity to really pick apart our past stories because it's gone and we have more knowledge now and we're wiser now and so we can look back and we can say I wish I did that then but we don't really know if that version of us even had that in their mind. You know, it's not as if we did plan dot to dot every aspect of our life and it didn't go that way. We just lived. And then afterward we look back and say I wish I hadn't done it that way, but a lot of those are positive lessons.

Ellen 3:28  

Exactly. I was just about to say lessons, the things that happened to you in your past like the things that happened to me in my past, although I look back and think I wish I could change some of that story I wouldn't be as strong as I am now. I wouldn't be the woman I am now if I had been able to change what happened to me or my story. If I avoided it I wouldn't be anywhere near the person that I am now and I wouldn't have gone through all the growth because I needed those events to happen to propel me forward in my personal growth and journey. So as much as I wanted to change my story if I look at it from the perspective of where I am now, if any part of that story had changed I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be this version of me.

Matthew 4:37  

You're right. We are a sum of the experiences we've been through. Our expectations, preferences, whatever you want to call them are typically held as either regrets, opportunities that we missed, things that we did, also grudges, a lot of it can be tied to other people, things that we hold, how we expected someone to be or we didn't expect them to do this to us. It's very much being a victim to our own lives. 

Ultimately, that causes us unneeded emotional pain and that keeps us trapped. That's what it does it keeps us trapped in that past story, we're not able to redefine our life because we're being defined by what we've been through. We're allowing ourselves to be defined in that way and what it really looks like to let go, is to do what we said earlier, is to start to change how you view it. To start to see your story as perhaps a gift but one that you now get to give and you've said this to me before.

Ellen 5:58  

Yeah, that you've lived it now. It's your story, but it's no longer your story to be living in. It's your story to tell so you can help others move through that if they're in that state. However, you're not there anymore. So it's no longer your reality, it's no longer your present. 

Matthew 6:29  

No, it's your wisdom. 

Ellen 6:33  

Oh, I like that. That's a great one. It's allowing your past to shape you, but it's not allowing your past to define you.

Matthew 6:50  

It's a wisdom and it's almost an asset, you know, you can take that forward. I think the key there is being less critical of ourselves. If we're able to be a bit less critical of ourselves we give ourselves the room to just see our experiences unbiasedly. 

This is an exercise that comes up in a lot of ways because it's so powerful but it's an exercise where you take it away from yourself and you put it in somebody else. So you say, would I criticise this other person or look down on this other person because of this thing that I went through as if it was their past, you know what I mean? 

Ellen 7:36  


Matthew 7:37  

So we're very critical of ourselves, we see ourselves through a different lens to anybody else, we wouldn't say the same things to someone that we say to ourselves, we wouldn't judge others the way we judge ourselves. So that sort of exercise, that's what you need to change your perspective, that's what you need to be able to be less critical and when you're less critical you look at your past and it's just pages in a book essentially. 

You can view it differently and you can view it and think this person's strong, this person's wise, this person has worked through a lot they've gotten through some real hardships, this person has accomplished something or they are worthy of happiness. Perhaps they've not had much in the past but now they're worthy of it they've worked so hard for it. I think that's the real key to letting go is changing how we view ourselves and changing how we view that story and of course the benefit then is that we are free to be somebody else. We're chained otherwise, we're kind of chained to our past and we're very likely to repeat certain behaviours.

Ellen 8:55  

Because we're stuck in that same mindset, we're stuck in that same emotion and we're stuck in that same version of ourselves. By holding on to our past we hold on to that same version of ourselves. So the benefit of letting go of that is you're able to redefine who you are in this present moment and not allow that to have a hold of you. It does also allow you to be very present in what you're doing right now and everything that's going on.

Matthew 9:36  

Let's move into the present.

Ellen 9:37  

Let's move into the present.

Matthew 9:39  

So expectations, preferences around the present and what they look like. It's very much around what we believe we have or haven't achieved, that's a very big one typically tied to status, age, wealth. It's looking at our life and saying I should be here or I should be doing this. It shows up in the small thoughts and the things we tell ourselves daily when we just don't meet this crazy high standard that we set on ourselves. I should have done this by now, I should be this, I should do this, okay I need to do this, I should be getting to bed at this time, I shouldn't be watching this thing right now, I should be doing this. 

Beneath it all a lot of time, there is a calling for change and there is a calling for self-growth and improvement but it doesn't come through pushing and criticising and the word 'should', the word 'need', these unconsciously bring about a feeling that's very uncomfortable, a feeling that creates resistance. When we say I need to do this, it's been shown that we get quite tense and there's a difference in our body and in our mind around that. We've just said it to ourselves but the word 'I need', those words put us in a state of reluctance and resistance and it's not any better with the word 'should'. 'Should' kind of demoralises us in a way as if we're not being good enough. As soon as you come from that should, I should do this, you're essentially saying I'm not good enough unless I'm doing this.

Ellen 11:32  

My current life is not worthy enough, I should be somebody else, I should be doing something else. A lot of this happens with women when they reach a certain age late 20s, early 30s, especially for me now, early 30s. All of my family members are married with kids and I was holding on to that for a long time that I should be married by now, I should have kids by now and once I let go of that 'should', I was very much able to be proud of where I am and where I have gotten in my life and who I've become as a person. 

That allowed me to focus more on myself and my growth and be very present instead of focusing on what I should be and that 'should', where did that come from? Was that something that I thought I needed to be? Or was that something that had been placed in me? Or imprinted on me from a young age from society, from others? That allowed me to look at that and see whether it was my belief or whether it was a belief that was shaped by everybody else and everything else around me.

Matthew 13:12  

Yeah, I think most of our expectations are culturally dictated, culture has dictated what those are. We create so much stress and anxiety around this but we have all these shoulds, we have all these boxes we need to tick to be good enough, to feel good enough within ourselves and it's so centred on us and yet none of it's coming from us it's all coming from culture and this is one of the ways that you get to let go of these expectations is to challenge that, is to question where are these coming from.

When I say I should do this, where is this coming from? Me? Or is it coming from a video I watched that said when you wake up you should do this, this and this? You know, where is it coming from? And recognise that we're all individual and so we get to decide what we want to do and what we feel we would benefit from doing and there's a lot of power in that argument because culture is so diverse. So if we take the understanding that these ideas are being given to us by culture you can change culture, you can go into a different culture in the world and they can have a completely different belief system and they don't have the same expectations of you, they have completely different expectations, for better or worse. There's so much diversity there and that might get you thinking that this is pretty false. What's it based on? It's based on something quite flimsy potentially, this isn't gospel, well it could be 'gospel' ha. But it isn't rules set in stone, there is something around that has put this in us as an ideal that we feel we have to meet.

And obviously this goes deeper and deeper and deeper because we are in a world now where everybody's chasing ideals and they're being shaped by this thing they saw on the Internet and TV and what this person said. This is popular so you've got to do this. And we are almost losing our uniqueness and our identity in the process. We are shaming ourselves for who we are and our experiences because they're not quite adding up to this very polished ideal that we're seeing and the way you let go of it is beginning with questions, really question it and think, this isn't coming from me this is coming from this source. 

Get very aware and recognise that it's not coming from you and then make the choice if it fits. Some stuff does fit. There's plenty of things out there that you go, you know what, getting up early in the morning is probably pretty good for me even though I've been a night owl for many years and would have said no that's the worst thing ever, there's quite a few benefits to getting up and I like that. So I've resonated, you find something that you resonate with, you test it out as well, you try something on.

Ellen 16:38  

Yeah, don't be afraid to test things out. Don't be afraid to try what works and what doesn't even if you think, oh I don't want to do that because because it's an ideal that people are placing, it might actually work for you and if it doesn't as well, that's okay, we're all different, we have to work with our strengths and our weaknesses and I think being aware of your strengths and weaknesses is so strong. If you find that something works or something doesn't work with you then honour it and be okay with that.

Matthew 17:18  

Yeah, be brave enough to remove that should. Then the other side of that is gratitude for who you are and gratitude for where you are in life and putting our attention on the things we are doing.

Ellen 17:37  

Begin to praise yourself and celebrate yourself for the things you are achieving and that you are doing and don't be afraid to pat yourself on the back and say, Yay I achieved this, because you need to celebrate yourself. I think that's so important and then that'll be fuel.

Matthew 18:01  

Yeah and this works for the past as well, look at where you were 365 days ago compared to where you are now and then in the present, what did you do this morning? What are you doing right now? The most powerful one is having the intention and having the awareness. If you are actively attempting to work through these things and improve yourself you're doing so well.

Ellen 18:31  

You're doing so much more than a lot of people out there are doing and that's something that we're working through daily and I have to remind myself all the time to celebrate the little things and that's why when I have a list of what needs to be done not remove the things but just tick them off and look at everything that I've achieved and completed

Matthew 18:57  

Right, once you've completed it you keep it on the list so you can see what you've done.

Ellen 19:01  

Exactly and say, oh wow I did achieve a lot actually, good on me and also being grateful. I've started to put in place a daily gratitude practice and its really brought me to the present moment, being grateful for the wind on my face, the sun on my face, being grateful for what I was doing right then and there as I was saying these things and that just really made me happy and made me feel quite present.

Matthew 19:37  

Yeah, you get what you focus on. Moving forward. 

Ellen 19:41  

Yeah, let's move into the future baby.

Matthew 19:46  

The future is when we have expectations and this is the actual definition of expectation, belief around the future and how we think it's going to plan out and we set these in place because we want things to happen. We have an innate need to have things figured out, we really want to have it all figured out and want to know how everything's going to play even though a lot of us surely don't because there's a lot in surprise and all these sorts of things, it would be pretty boring, potentially, if you knew everything but we want safety and it's an illusion of safety because there isn't necessarily true safety. 

You can put this into examples, there's people who, even I had this, where you might know your job isn't great for you but you might be reluctant to quit because it's unsafe to leave your job. Not recognising that at any time for various reasons your employer could let you go. Unless you're the boss and it's your company and even still your company could go bust, things could go wrong but the safety is not there and then let's say you have a fantastic thriving business and then you get hit by a car.

Ellen 21:09  

Thats pretty extreme, hahaha. 

Matthew 21:13  

I'm just saying that the safety in the world is not what we think it is and we try and manufacture this to make us feel better. 

Ellen 21:23

To make us feel comfortable.

Matthew 21:24

Yeah it's all very much about how we feel. We set these expectations in the future to make us feel safer, to make us feel calmer but until we experience them we don't think about the ramifications of that and the most obvious one and the one that we most experience is things like disappointment. We experience disappointment because we've set an expectation in, this things gonna happen or by this date, I'm going to be here. Let's just say you don't reach that, all that brings is disappointment potentially.

Ellen 21:58  

I can give a good example of a future expectation that we put in place or especially that I put in place recently, of us trying to sell our car and I wasn't really conscious that I was putting a specific date on it but I I expected or I had preference over it selling within the week or within the couple of weeks or at the end of the last housesit. When it didn't sell by then I was then uncomfortable, I wasn't sure what was going to happen, I was living from a place of uncertainty and I didn't like it and it was because I had placed a preference, an expectation on when the van would sell. 

Once I realised that I had to let go of that preference and that expectation of the van selling at a certain date or a certain time or whenever it would sell once I let go of that I felt a bit more at ease even though I wasn't sure of what was going to happen or how we were going to proceed or how things were going to move forward, just letting go of that relieved that stress and anxiety around it.

Matthew 23:21  

It's a scarcity mindset, a belief that things aren't going to work out and this goes back to what we said, that so many of the expectations arent coming from a place of joy, they're not coming from a place of love and happiness. We set expectations ultimately to try and alleviate pain and alleviate suffering and yet they pretty much are one of the biggest contributors to pain and suffering. 

I feel like I wasn't for whatever reason attached to that expectation and therefore I didn't experience that same level of stress and worry until we got to that point and it didn't meet your expectation and you kind of reflected that on to me. I could feel that you were in that state of panic and it puts you in a very reactive state you're not in a place of calm, conscious response you're not responding to things that are happening in the world you are reacting in a place of, we haven't got enough time, we haven't got this, we haven't got that and we mirror each other and everything is reflected.

Ellen 24:44  

I think I projected that stress and anxiety on to you so then we both were in this mindset of, oh no what are we going to do? What's going to happen? And that's unnecessary because we have no control over the future. As much as we have expectations or preferences understanding that we need to let that go because we have no control over what's going to happen and we might want it to work out a certain way but essentially it's going to happen, it's going to work out whichever way it works out whether we like it or not but it'll be the way it's supposed to and that's something that I got told when I was about 19 going through a breakup with one of my first boyfriends, and the lady that I worked with at the childcare centre said to me, things might not work out the way you want them to but they'll work out how they're supposed to and it really allowed me to let go. 

There's such a benefit in letting go because it not only alleviates a lot of stress and worry and anxiety but it also brings you back to the present. It brings you back to being grateful for what is and letting go of what was and what you expect of the future and just being present, being mindful and being grateful.

Matthew 26:25  

Yeah, for the future it encourages excitement so you have that gratitude but you also have excitement for the possibilities that are out there.

Ellen 26:36  

That are unknown, because you have no control so it opens you up to actually being excited that you don't know what's going to happen.

Matthew 26:44  

It also encourages and brings out in you a sense of inner confidence because at the core of that is trusting that you can handle what comes because again that's why we're putting the expectation in place, we want to feel safe, we don't trust ourselves to be able to deal with things that come in so we have to put a frame on it and say this is how the future is going to go and if I say it's going to go this way, then it's going to go this way nothing can go wrong and then of course it can and we're not prepared for that because we've put ourself so fully into this idea that this is the way it's going to go.

Ellen 27:30  

That's so much worse because then when things do change you are all frazzled and you don't know what you can do, you're like, How do I handle this situation? I knew how I was going to handle my other perceived situation but this new one, what the heck do I do? Whereas if you live in a state of knowing that I don't know what's going to happen then it kind of opens you up to being able to handle whatever situation gets thrown at you.

Matthew 27:58  

Yeah you have to trust yourself.

Ellen 27:59  

Rather than narrowing yourself into, I can only handle this situation if it goes exactly according to plan.

Matthew 28:06  

It is fear-based and we're forced down roads of fear and we can say that a lot of it is learned behaviour and a lot of it is natural primal behaviour, we survived because of fear, fear helped us survive in the days of being hunted by all kinds of creatures, you don't go in that dark cave because there could be something in that dark cave and that's incredible and it's a natural thing and it's a very powerful thing and it's an important thing to have some sort of level of fear, I think it's probably crucial to our survival even now, it's not to the same level and not in the same ways.

Ellen 28:55  

It's that fight or flight response which is that natural instinct but we've changed it to be something.

Matthew 29:05  

Well in an attempt to avoid it we say, this is how my life is going to be and I'm going to do this and it's going to feel this way and this person that I love is going to behave this way and they're going to say only this kind of stuff to me and everything's going to be exactly this and then of course, if anything isn't that way it just flips everything upside down and you go, wait I didn't expect this person to say this or do this thing or expect my life situation to go this way. 

You even put expectations around yourself and how you think you're going to behave in a certain situation and then if you don't behave that exact way you feel less than. It's just letting go and releasing that a little bit and in that space then you build confidence, you build trust, you understand that life flows and you can be a boat, you can build a boat and be on that and building a very rigid house is not going to deal with that water.

Ellen 30:11  

I think when we say letting go, one way you can do that is just to acknowledge how you're feeling and that you are feeling out of control, that you are feeling anxious or stressed or worried. It's really about acknowledging the emotions that you're feeling and choosing to feel them is one way of letting go just feeling angry, feeling stressed, feeling anxious, and then choosing to be with them and be okay with feeling those things. I think that's the main thing. People are so scared of feeling those emotions and they want to move out of them very, very quickly but the more you sit with them the more you become comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. I think that's important.

Matthew 31:21  

Yeah I think that is important to feel those things because otherwise like you said you are running from them or you're blocking them out but not to dwell in them and from my experience one of the best things you can do is question, you ask yourself very deep, powerful questions. 

Where's this feeling come from? 

If I were not feeling this right now? 

What would I do with my life? 

One of my absolute favourites is; if I knew that this would work or if I knew that nothing could go wrong what would I do right now? 

Those sorts of very powerful questions where I say; if I could never experience fear what would I say to this person? What would I do with my life? 

How would I be feeling right now if I knew nothing to go wrong, would I even have these expectations or would I just flow? 

Would I get up every day and just flow because I know nothing could go wrong? 

And through repeating those questions and being with that feeling we can embody that state more and more and more. 

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