What Do You Expect?

expectation

I’ve heard it said that kids today have an overblown sense of entitlement. I’m not sure it’s got anything to do with today. I grew up in the 1960s and felt very entitled. It comes, I suppose, from being born into a land of plenty, from taking for granted a square meal and a roof over your head. I also anticipated a life of meaningful and profitable prospects. Far from feeling just plain lucky, I considered it my right.

How could anyone in this fabulous country of Canada (there are many others) not grow up like this? Still, it’s not easy to change human nature. We take what we’ve got for granted. In other words, we’re born into expectation: the belief that we will or should achieve something.

Ideas have little power over human nature, but they do have a little. Having an idea doesn’t change a thing, but applying it consistently to the way we approach life does—gradually and profoundly. It’s what sets us apart from other animals. This is meditation—not sitting fashionably crossed-legged but sustaining an idea, massaging it and seeing it from different angles. You don’t need to be weird about it. You might be washing dishes, jogging or staring at passing clouds and still be meditating. Personally, that’s when I do it best.

When our expectations are defeated we feel overwhelmed, oppressed by something beyond our power. It creeps up on us when we’re lost in the gap between what we expect and what actually happens.

The power of meditation lies in exploring the gap between what we expect of life and what it delivers. No one is exempt from the pendulum swings of joy and despair, but we do love to think we are. Wishful thinking is as much in our nature as entitlement.

Entitlement feels good, but when our expectations are defeated we feel overwhelmed, oppressed by something beyond our power. It creeps up on us when we’re lost in the gap between what we expect and what actually happens.

We say life is overwhelming, but there’s no such person as ‘life;’ it’s just a way of speaking. And blaming ‘life’ for feeling overwhelmed is a cop out. Instead, we can see how our expectations set us up for disappointment, and then sustain that thought. That’s how a bit of reflection can seriously change the way we handle things. When the idea is translated into action, things move in new directions.

Caroline and I recently left our home of fourteen years and moved into a rental while our new house is being built. One delay after another has frayed our nerves, especially since the rental’s not at all adapted for Caroline’s MS. We feel overwhelmed every day, and we deal with it every day. On the whole, we balance each other out. When she’s ready to scream, I squeeze a smile out of her. When I’m ready to explode, she reminds me that I can handle it. The fact that we regularly put on our Quiet Mind Workshops helps keep our heads on straight.

This may not look like much, but to fine-tune your human nature you absolutely need a support system. We need people we believe in to remind us to believe in ourselves. We also need strategy and the guidance of an appropriate teacher. That might be a religious figure, a martial arts teacher or a coaching mentor. It all depends on who you relate to. The rest is a matter of practice.