Alexander Pope famously said, ”Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” ANNA PUCAR RIMHAGEN explores this phenomenon in the light of the Intent Thematic and the need to give each situation its due, not just as managers and leaders in the workplace, but also in our personal lives and relationships.
HAVE YOU EVER prepared a strategy for an important meeting, painstakingly planning for each eventuality, plotting out each possible scenario, feeling totally on top of things and expecting success, praise and adulation, only to be hit with a curve ball no-one saw coming that left all your expectations dashed and made you feel like a total failure? Or, conversely, ever had one of those moments where you really didn’t know what to expect and suddenly all the dots connected, and you ended up having one of your most successful encounters or endeavours ever?
When our vision is clouded with our own poisonous expectations and projections, we cannot be totally present in each moment and truly give each situation its due, as we learn to do from the Intent Thematic. Each situation is new, regardless of what has happened before and what will transpire afterwards, hence you can neither really harbour expectations, nor be obliged to fulfill someone else’s expectations. We can, therefore, argue that there can never really be any expectations.
What is true for our work lives as leaders and managers also applies to our personal lives and our own level of happiness. A spontaneous dinner with friends can be absolutely astonishing. Had it been planned and the whole course of the evening plotted, it might have been, well, just nice. A declaration of love, or an affectionate thought, can be overwhelmingly beautiful and touching. If it is anticipated and expected, the effect diminishes and we become more jaded. However, if it is expected and it doesn’t happen, it can feel like being swallowed by a big black hole.
It seems logical, therefore, to prescribe the sensible treatment of never having any expectations and instead allowing wonderful things to happen and then marvel at them and feel grateful.
Needless to say that is easier said than done, especially if you try to do this continuously and not just as a once-off strategy for certain events or situations. And that’s just your own expectations. What about all those put upon us, starting from the microcosm of our immediate family to the macrocosm of societal norms, expectations and prescriptions of what you should do, how you should behave and how you should react. It may be things like the career choices we make to please our parents who expect us to become a doctor or lawyer or to take over a family business – all noble and good options, of course, depending on the intent behind it. Are you doing it because you want to and think it is right, or because you feel you are expected and obliged to? The latter can make you feel that you have to, rather than that you want to – and that is problematic. In this instance giving the moment its due requires you to act with courage, and failure to do so and being a victim in this instance makes you a taker, not a giver.
It is, likewise, very easy to have expectations of others, to feel that they owe you. Maybe you helped your partner pursue their career for several years and feel it is now your turn. It may indeed be the right time for you to get out there and pursue your career. That’s fine. It is also perfectly fine for your partner to help you with it now, but it has to be their choice. You can certainly ask for their help, but you cannot claim it. You cannot expect him or her to do it, because doing so would make you a taker. What they do to help you has to be done by their free will and not because they feel obliged or motivated by guilt rather than their own desire to do it. Otherwise they would, once again, not be giving the moment its due; and that would then make them takers, too. Surely two takers cannot help each other in a meaningful way or bring out the best either in each other or the situation. So you can see how those kinds of expectations can be extremely toxic and also have a very negative effect on the whole relationship.
If we wish to take this understanding a step further and transform our relationships – work or personal – it is helpful to realise that a relationship consists of a long line of individual situations and interactions, much like how lots of individual weather patterns over time produce the climate. This implies that we are totally free and able to redefine our relationships if we work on the nature of the individual interactions, if we meet each other in each situation without expectations based on what has happened before or what we want to happen in the future. This is quite a liberating thought, isn’t it?
If you want to explore these concepts in more depth and learn about the powerful and positive impact it can have on your life and your own self-empowerment, you could enroll in our Personal Excellence course. We also recommend reading The Two Sandals – Intention, Attention and the Journey of Becoming Human and Intent: Exploring the Core of Being Human, both by Etsko Schuitema.