Unlisted: Expect Nothing

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I’ve learned to expect nothing in life. 

On the surface, such a statement is cynical and jaded. But I am neither when I say that I expect nothing in life. I grew up with a lot of expectations, which led to years of stalling and disappointment. It wasn’t until this year that I found the inner peace to let a lot of my expectations go.

Often, people who are depressed say “I don’t expect anything in life,” so as a society when someone says that we assume they are depressed. But satisfied people also adhere to the “no expectations” philosophy. 

With no expectations, do we take a deeper embrace of life. When I expected things to happen for me, I held myself back. I believed if I followed a specific, passive path, an opportunity would fall into my lap. I would find internal peace. 

But it wasn’t until I took a more active role in my life, did opportunities start to present themselves. I found the self-satisfaction I sought, and I finally got healthier physically and mentally. All because I dropped my expectations.

Living Life with (mostly) “No Expectations”

What is it like to live without expectations?

It’s rather freeing.

I will preemptively clarify this: I do have some expectations, I expect to find professional success and satisfaction in my writing. I expect to qualify for the Boston Marathon someday. I expect that I will continue to manage my MS healthily.

We all have expectations in our life, and that’s what drives us forward. But sometimes we place too many expectations on ourselves and the stuff we cannot control. I can control professional success if I take chances. I can control my qualification if I train. I can control my MS if I take the recommended steps.

But it’s the uncontrollable expectations I’ve learned to let go. I no longer expect things to happen to/for me, but that I have to go out and make things happen.

This allows me to take a more active role in my life. I no longer expect my MS to get worse, even if it might. I am healthy now. I spent much of the first few years post-diagnosis thinking about how quickly my health will go downhill by the time I hit 40. That was mental and emotional time spent worrying about something eleven years down the road that probably won’t happen.

Neither do I expect to remain healthy, because MS or not, anything can happen to my health at any moment. This allows me to live more “in the moment” because I recognize my mortality and the fragility of life overall.

I am more active in my life, and I love it. I recognize any small success as a success to be celebrated. I view each stumble as a teaching moment to learn and grow. Because of this, I am taking more risks than before and finding more opportunities to present themselves to me.

“Expect Nothing, but Accept Everything” – John Gary Bishop

I can’t get away from him, but I found so much validation from John Gary Bishop’s book, Unf*ck Yourself. Given how many times I’ve plugged his book on my blog, I should charge him a fee.

Once I’ve embraced expecting nothing in life, I’m open to everything that comes my way. With that, I can choose what opportunities I want to take, rather than leaping at each one that presents itself. Before I changed my mindset, I felt weighed down by not taking advantage of every opportunity because I was desperate. I was afraid that if I didn’t embrace an opportunity, I wouldn’t get a second chance. I no longer worry about missing my chances because I know I can go out and seek the opportunity again.

I’ve raised my own personal value in the process. I no longer deal with the attitude of “I’m desperate,” which leads to lower feelings of self-worth. I now believe that I am worth my time and abilities. I can say “no,” and that’s okay. But I can also mean “yes,” if I want to try something out.

I feel more grounded by taking this perspective. I’ve lost the added stress that comes from unnecessary expectations. It keeps me at the moment, rather than worrying about the future or the past all the time. While I do have to look ahead and plan, I no longer allow it to consume me like it once did, and I embrace what comes my way.

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