The greatest step toward a life of simplicity is to learn to let go.
Imagine you had a ripe, juicy apple sitting on an otherwise empty table in front of you. You pick it up eagerly, take a nibble, and begin to taste it.
You already know how an apple should taste, and so when this one is a bit more tart than you expected, you make a face, feel a sense of disappointment and swallow it, dissatisfied.
Or perhaps the apple tastes EXACTLY as you expected – nothing special at all. So you swallow without even pausing to enjoy its flavor, and you move on with your day.
In the first scenario, the apple was disappointing because it didn’t meet your expectations. In the second, it was too plain and unexciting because it met your expectations to a T.
Do you see the irony here?
It’s either not good, or not good enough.
Now imagine you try this: eliminate your expectations of how the apple ‘should’ taste. You don’t know, and you don’t pretend to know, because you haven’t tried it yet. Instead, you’re genuinely curious, impartial and open to a variety of flavors.
You taste it, and you truly pay attention. You notice the juiciness, the grainy texture of the skin, the simultaneously sweet, tangy and tart flavors swirling around your tongue, and all the other complex sensations that arise in your awareness as you chew. You didn’t know how it would taste, but now you realize it’s brilliant! It’s brand new, because you’ve never tasted THIS apple before.
Mindfulness practitioners often refer to this as “beginner’s mind,” but really it’s just the outcome of a mindset free of needless expectations.
The apple, of course, can be substituted for anything in your life: any event, any task, any social interaction, any person, any meal, any thought at all that enters your mind, anytime and anyplace. If you approach any of these with expectations of “how it should be,” they will surely disappoint you in some way… or be too plain and unexciting to remember. And you’ll just move on to the next disappointment or unexciting experience, and the next, and the next, and so on and so forth, until you’ve lived your entire life stuck in an endless cycle of things you barely like or barely even notice.
But if you approach each event, task, social interaction, etc. without expectations – and just see that event, task, social interaction, etc. at face value – then you will truly see it. You will truly appreciate it for what it is. And you will truly experience it like you’ve never experienced anything before, because you haven’t.
This is The Art of Making Life Easier!
So now that we’ve cleared the air a little, let’s take a closer look at three of the most common ways people use expectations to make life harder than it has to be:
1. You procrastinate to avoid your expectation of problems.
Let’s say you’ve been putting off a big project at work because you’re dreading [Read more…]