We often hear the phrases – “everything in moderation”, “too much of a good thing is bad for you”, “moderation is the key”, and “putting all your eggs in one basket”. These common sayings make their way into many of our daily conversations. Of course, they’re applicable to almost everything and anything, but what about thought? We all hold expectations about the events or situations in our lives. We think about how we want certain things to unfold, and when they don’t meet our expectations we experience disappointment or regret. We watch friends and loved ones hold high hopes for something, only to comfort them when they are let down. There are people who hold such low expectations for their lives, that their pessimistic attitudes leave them encountering disappointment around every corner. On the other hand, there are others who adopt a positive, more balanced approach to their expectations and experience fulfilment regularly.
There seems to be two distinct schools of thought on this subject. Some believe the higher your expectations, the further you have to fall. Others believe that if you expect the best, then that is what you receive; but how do we maintain a balance between high and low expectations, without unnecessarily selling ourselves short or setting ourselves up for failure? We can learn to gauge whether our expectations are either too high or too low by paying close attention to how we are feeling when we come to the result or outcome awaiting us. It seems there may be some truth in applying moderation to our thoughts and expectations. Life being as unpredictable as it is, we never really know how anything is going to turn out; holding realistic expectations may be wiser. How many of us have held high expectations for an eagerly anticipated night out, new relationship, business venture, or holiday, only to be sorely let down? If we take the events and circumstances in our lives for what they are; things that are ultimately subject to change, as all things are in the world, then maybe, we might feel less attached to the outcome and not so disappointed when things don’t go our way. Perhaps the answer lies in detachment from the ultimate result. This doesn’t mean that we can’t relish the joy and happiness that comes from the myriad of events in our lives, but quite the opposite; by being present and holding moderate expectations, we are free to truly enjoy the moment for what it is, without the burden of unrealistic expectations. Remaining open to limitless possibilities, we are free from limiting thoughts that tell us we can only be happy if things turn out a certain way, according to our specifications.
Choosing to hold moderate expectations may bring a sense of spontaneity to our lives. There’s a certain element of surprise that moderate expectations allows room for. If expecting great things and they don’t eventuate, feelings of sadness, dejection and disappointment arise. Continually experiencing these negative emotions can be debilitating and give rise to self-defeating thoughts. However, holding moderate expectations can bring with it pleasure and delight when they exceed all expectations. How many times have we resisted going to see a film that does not interest us, only to be pleasantly surprised when it actually turns out to be quite entertaining? Or, how many times have we been persuaded to go to a social gathering, when not terribly enthusiastic about it, and had the time of our lives? By remaining open to limitless possibilities available to us, we are often presented with a handful of opportunities we’ve never imagined before.
There are so many factors, seen and unseen, that influence everything, we couldn’t possible control all of them, nor would we want to. However, we can shape our thoughts and train our minds, to ensure that we are not deliberately, unconsciously, adding to our disappointment by holding unrealistic expectations. A sense of abandonment, joy, bliss, and peace can come from having moderate expectations. If we create our own experience, then surely, we can be a little kinder to ourselves by keeping our expectations in balance.