The guest post you’re about to read comes from someone I hold near and dear: my brother. He’s actually been working behind-the-scenes for me the past few weeks as I’ve been adjusting to a new job and environment. Make sure to give him all the snaps and kudos you can muster.
While I’ve always held Joe on a makeshift pedestal, since he’s my older brother and has seemed to have it “all together” while I’ve failed and wandered aimlessly, he too has many struggles. Nobody is immune to societal and internal pressures. The big questions of, “What are you doing with your life?” and “How can I be successful?” are constantly swimming around, begging for our attention.
Take a gander at Joe’s personal journey and experiences with letting go of expectations. I’m sure you’ll find yourself between the lines. The world might not change, and the black-and-white division between success and failure may remain…but that doesn’t mean we have to abide by that status quo.
There’s always some point in your life where you’re going to feel like you’re behind, like you’re treading water while everyone else is swimming to shore. That’s about where I am right now.
Let me explain: I’m at a law school that prides itself on being able to pair students with good jobs, mainly at large firms in cities like New York and Washington. Around 75% of students end up at a law firm after graduation. It very much seems like an expectation for future graduates. One of the things I learned in law school is that I’m not a fan of competition, flattery, networking, type A personalities, and all the other stuff that goes into applying and working a law firm.
As you may imagine, finding a different job is not an easy task. I already have troubles targeting cover letters and nailing job interviews, and now there’s an extra challenge of finding a place I can be happy with and not just something that’s available. All the while, many other people have found their jobs and have that part of their life set for the foreseeable future. It’s very easy to feel left out, like I’m losing the pack, like there’s something wrong with what’s happening in my life. But there isn’t. It’s just a matter of knowing how to let go of expectations.
You’ve heard this before, but it’s worth repeating: comparing yourself to other people is a terrible and vicious act. Somehow we’re all programmed to believe that there are only a few good paths to take in life. If you stray off the path, you’re not a good person. You’re expected to do X, Y, and Z to be “successful,” full stop. As long as there are other people, there will be a need to let go of expectations, ones that are especially harmful and unrealistic.
Not only is that all bogus, but also very rarely are these few good paths even good. Would you like to work in a job that drives people to depression, drug addiction, and/or an early death? For many people, that’s law firm life in a nutshell. Just because a certain lifestyle looks rewarding doesn’t mean it is. To let go of expectations means to truly assess how fulfilling the “dream life” is for you and many others.
You have too many options in this world to stick with the status quo. There is an infinite number of ways that you could live your life. Every choice you make sets you apart from every other person on the planet. We’ve all come from different beginnings, have had vastly different journeys, and will have vastly different ends. Copying other people just pushes your individuality out of the picture.
As much as other people can give you guidance as to what paths might be best, you have to define your own path and let go of expectations from others. Life’s what you make it! If you find out that the original path you chose isn’t making you happy, then pick a new one.
jumping through hoops
Once you figure out what direction you want your life to head, you can start learning more about what you need to do to meet your own standards, thus letting go of expectations you assume you need.
If you’re passionate about something, it’s fine and often necessary to jump through some hoops. Hard work pays off. It’s better than not trying at all.
Even if you’re forging your own path and trying to do things your way, sometimes you’ll find out that you’re letting yourself down because you’re not trying hard enough. Leaving others’ expectations behind doesn’t mean you’ll ever be free of your own expectations. You still have to do work that supports your well-being.
Just because you’ve worked hard at something, maybe even the hardest at something, doesn’t mean you’ll get a reward for it. Giving up isn’t always going to be a choice you make; sometimes the goals you may set for yourself were just never in your reach. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean your life is broken or flawed. It just means that you have a new opportunity to begin anew and venture toward what is meant for you.
You’ve probably felt at some point that life could be going better for you. There’s a reason the grass is greener on the other side: there’s always something more you could be doing with your life.
Let go of expectations that you aren’t good enough. There’s no one in the history of mankind that has come anywhere close to having a perfect life. There’s always something more that could be done every day, every month, every year. And that’s okay! Practice gratitude and recognize all of the great things that are happening in your life right now. No matter your struggles, you have a choice in how you feel.
Many will inevitably want you to feel bad about how your life is going. Trust me, I can be that way sometimes. It all just comes from unhappiness. But you always get to choose how to react. Are you going to take those people at their word or simply keep living the life you want?
Where you are right now may not be what you want, but it’s at least a stepping stone to something greater. You have the power to shape your future into what you want it to be. You don’t have infinite power over the exact result, but you do have infinite power over how you’ll react to it.
Don’t let others try to shape how you feel and what you should do. When push comes to shove, they don’t actually know what’s best for you. Being yourself is one of the most incredible actions you can take. To let go of expectations means to set yourself free from a cookie-cutter life. You have immense potential; don’t keep it in a box. Explore. Stumble. Celebrate. Enjoy.
What are your thoughts on how to let go of expectations? Are they obstacles you’re working to overcome? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie