[Be Opened] Lesson 3: Let Go of This ONE Thing to Move Your Life Forward
Written by Tracy on 01 Sep 2015
[This post is Part Three in a four-part series. Stayed tuned next week for Part Four—No Fear!]
E is for Expectations
Last week, we talked about moving from opportunities—what’s readily available in our lives—to possibilities—things that could happen but we can't see them yet. How do we become people of possibility? How do we hold on to the idea that there is still some magic left in the world?
Step Two in becoming open to your unique mission in life is learning to hope for what we cannot yet see, rather than settling for the opportunities that come easily to us.
Sounds simple at first, right?
I'm sure many of you can think back on a time when you freed your mind and incredible things happened for you.
But when you take a step back and think about it, living in possibility is really hard.
It requires us to go from what’s easy and comfortable to what’s difficult and unproven. It requires us to trust in something we don’t even know exists. It requires us, most importantly, to let go of the expectations that other people set on our lives, and live based on what we believe to be true, good, and successful.
Sometimes it requires us to let go of the expectations that we have put on our own lives.
As you may well know, those can be some of the hardest ones to let go.
But until you let go of the unnecessary expectations placed on your life, you won't be free to see and chase what really resonates with you.
That’s how we get to the E in OPEN—expectations.
Remember the drum circle from the last post?
I firmly believe that every single person on that voyage had come to this realization:
Letting go of unnecessary expectations is the only path to freedom of choice.
In fact, I believe that's how we found each other.
Every one of us had chosen to let go of tradition, cliché, and expectation. Because of that brave decision, we found ourselves on a boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean brainstorming about how we were going to change the world.
That was a possibility never available to me until I let go of what everyone else expected me to do.
And once I returned from that trip, I had an even greater realization.
Every successful person I have coached or worked with lives the same way—knowing that you will never, ever be free to chase your unique path, to explore life, or to follow the great things in store for you until you let go of the expectations of others.
I want to make an important distinction here.
Some expectations on our lives are good.
We should definitely obey laws, live by the golden (and platinum) rules, and contribute positively to society.
And have a little fun along the way… of course.
Those are all good expectations.
What I’m talking about is not letting the expectations for your life, your path, your career, your family, your interests, your anything define you.
I make that distinction for you now, because I had to learn this one the hard way.
For too long, I allowed the expectations placed on my life by those around me dictate my decisions and define my life.
I played a burnt-out sport for too long. I kept a job I hated for too long, I allowed myself to get deeply unhappy for too long.
I did all of this to live up to someone else’s standards for what a “perfect life” should be.
I did it all in the name of saving face.
I did it all thinking it would make me “successful”.
Even when I thought I had learned this lesson, I still failed to fully embrace this idea.
Let's pick up at the drum circle again to continue this story.
Once I got back from Semester at Sea after my quarter-life crisis was over, I felt like I was on the road to recovery.
I had a new mind and a new mission. I found some amazing mentors who helped me redefine my life on my terms. I came back with one singular idea:
I was going to help people become better versions of themselves.
If that sounds nebulous, it’s because it is.
I didn’t quite know what that looked like, so I decided to start by exploring the talent development industry. I figured making people better at their jobs was at least one step in the right direction.
For a year, I worked for a woman who owned her own consulting firm. She had written a best-selling book, parlayed that book into a speaker career, and parlayed that speaking career into a successful consulting business.
She and I would go into organizations and train them on various things like leadership, diversity, and emotional intelligence in the hopes that it would make the business, and more importantly, the employees more successful and happier at work.
This woman was still growing the business, so she couldn’t pay me a salary or give me benefits. I worked for her as an independent associate, and she paid me as much as she could. The experience was well worth it, but in order to pay rent and actually eat, I had to do other various jobs throughout the week.
Here’s just a small smattering of the jobs I had while working for her:
- Yoga apparel salesperson
- Steakhouse restaurant waitress
- Freelance copywriter
- Apprentice babysitter
And my personal favorite…
The illustrious role of online textbook collaborator.
As you might guess, my friends were constantly commenting on my lifestyle choice.
Why don’t you just get a “real” job?
What’s the point of working 5 jobs and scraping by?
I just don’t know how you’re doing it…
That was the worst one of all.
Exactly one year into working for this woman, a came across an opportunity for a full-time job. Same industry. More money. Better benefits.
Everyone had seen how difficult it was to cobble together enough money to live, so they pushed me toward accepting the full time offer.
All of my friends…
Even random strangers would tell me things like, wow, who wouldn’t take that?!
Well, the pressure and the expectation set in. The allure of benefits and health insurance was undeniable. And, against every bone and instinct in my body, I took that full-time position.
I knew it didn't feel right, but I did it anyway.
I allowed the expectations of others to dictate my decision.
Friends, I’m here today to tell you…
This was, hands down, the worst decision I have made in my adult life.
And that’s coming from someone who used to wear fanny packs on a regular basis... so you know this was bad.
The role was horrible for me. The company was poorly run. The management was… ummmm… lacking.
And after only a few months, that company and I parted ways.
Not on a good note.
I want you to know something important here:
Allowing the expectations of others to dictate your decisions will not lead you to personal fulfillment.
It will not lead you to happiness. And in most cases, it will not lead you down the path you’re being called to.
Hope and possibility ask us to live lives free of societal expectations in so many other ways, so why do we ignore them when it comes to our life’s work?
Don’t make the same mistakes I did.
Let go of labels.
Imagine your own ideals.
Think for yourself.
Have a heart.
Trust your tummy.
Do what’s right for you—not what’s right for everyone else.
And make sure you do what is authentically you. Chase the dreams that God has written on your heart, rather than the ones that society tells you will make you successful or happy.
Whew... soapbox, down.
Now, while that’s all well and good, there’s still one more major hurdle we have to get over to be open to our unique missions in life.
How in the hell do we do all of this?
So far, I’ve asked you to scrutinize all of the opportunities in your life, chase possibilities that you can’t even see yet, and do all of this without caring about or worrying about the expectations of others…
That’s pretty damn hard, no matter how you slice it.
But I’m here to tell you, friends, it’s possible.
Tune in next week when we explore the last step to being truly open to your unique mission in life with the letter N—no fear.
Now I want to hear from you!
Tell me about a time when you allowed the expectations of others to dictate your decisions.
What about a time when you let go of expectations and trusted your gut?
How were they different?
Leave your thoughts in a comment below.