Life is so much more than our expectations

“Travel like Ghandi – with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind.” (Rick Steves)

When I wrote the post, The magical moments of life, I still had quite a few thoughts on expectations. Many years ago, when I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time, I realised how photos, the media and guidebooks create expectations and rob us of the joy of a first sighting. By the time I stood there, in Paris, expecting to be wowed by the sight… I felt like I had seen it a million times before.  Is it not the same with many other things in life – love, food, work, friendship – someone is always telling us how we should experience it, what it should be like. We rarely have the opportunity to experience something without any expectation.

I keep on thinking that I’ve got it sorted – that I can approach life with zero expectations. And, sometimes it works, and I can experience the moment – pure and simple. And, then there are times when I get caught up in a preconceived idea of what the experience, place or person should be like. The reality is very rarely what I wanted it to be. And it would have been so much better if I’d just let the moment be, and unfold into whatever it was supposed to be.

I read so many guidebooks about travelling around the world, what to expect on your first trip to Asia, sights to see, things to do – I’d already seen and done everything before even getting on the plane. And by the time I arrived, there was an expectation about what this place or its people should be like. I could not just experience it for the first time.

Taking it all in from a distance (Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 2010)

I had great expectations of the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Taj Mahal… none of them disappointed… but I did not get the “wow” that I had expected. Maybe it was because I’d seen it so many times before – on television, in guidebooks… and maybe its because we become jaded by life. We want everything to be extraordinary, spectacular, life changing. I had to revisit the Sydney Opera House a few times, before it hit me how extraordinary this building was. And, after negotiating my way around thousands of tourists at the Taj Mahal, semi-irritated, and disappointed, I eventually decided on a quiet spot where I could take in the whole building – I sat for a while, saw the light change, and realised what an incredible monument to love this actually was.

I had no expectations of Nepal. It was just a place I knew, instinctively, that I had to go to. But I had read very little about it, and nobody had told me anything about it. When I stepped of the plane, even the air felt different. And I fell in love with the place. It was chaotic and crazy and like nothing I knew. It was unexpected.

I’ve had to train myself to make a conscious effort to approach each moment as a new moment, with no expectations. But, it takes a while to retrain the brain. I came back to Greece this year, expecting it to be the same as last summer, but it has not been. Because I’ve changed. I want different things for myself, for my life.

I don’t think the way we live life allows for us to approach even one day without expectations. But, what if you try – even for an hour – to expect nothing? And see how life just flows… try to notice what it feels like to feel the sun on your skin, what your food tastes like, what the person sitting opposite you looks like. How does it feel to experience something for the first time?

5 thoughts on “Life is so much more than our expectations

  1. The Great Pyramid of Cheops my magical moment, the most beautiful and extraordinary piece of architecture. I knew at that very moment as I stood in it’s mammoth shadow, that nothing after would ever compare to it’s beauty, I would never be amazed, shocked, thrilled or as in love as I was at that very moment. I have seen the Taj, flown over Everest, visited medieval cathedrals and castles across Europe, walked along the Great Wall, stood in front of Niagara Falls and floated down the Mekong Delta. I may never experience a moment like that again in front of the Great Pyramid, it doesn’t matter though, because some moments are just once in a life time.

  2. I do agree that sometimes, the more prepared we are for an event/view/experience the bigger the chance that when the moment arrives, it will fall flat. At the beginning of last year, Charmaine gave me a quote: ‘One cannot collect all the shells on the beach, but occasionally pick up a special one and cherish it. Do not worry about the thousands you could not keep with you.’
    I think it is our (mine and yours) nature to plan and be as best prepared as we can for anything we plan – it gives us a sense of security and being in control. It takes a lot of guts to just let go and to let things happen – as we did last year. Then simple things like a walk when everyone in the village is asleep, becomes so special and we can experience the moment.

    Just keep on being yourself – you are doing great!

  3. This is soooo true. And then we can’t ever feel content because relationships or experiences don’t live up to all these unrealistic expectations. I read something which I try to carry with me: Things don’t have to be perfect to be great…

    Lots of love and don’t stop writing! M

  4. It feels like deja vu reading this…it has happened to me as well. The hardest part is the un-doing of our minds, the re-wiring to get excited about the NOW. Often we are in autopilot, not only in our daily mundane tasks, but also emotionally – perhaps this is measure of self-protection – a blanket we pull over ourselves, but it also excludes the child-like wonderment we want to experience when we know it is a “once in a lifetime”. How often are we robbed from truly getting excited about things because we need to act blase about it – for the sake of fitting in…

    How often do we ask for an experience to be presented to us and when it manifests, we forget how magical it really is. Perhaps, we must ask then, let me experience what I ask with incredible joy!!!

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