In a recent discussion with Dana Riker Jackson, of Riker Opportunity Institute, Inc. I was asked the question, “Is there a difference between expectation and getting what you want”. My response to this question came in the form of a frame of reference and so I have enclosed it too in this summary.
Whenever I hear the word expectation(s), my mind immediately shifts my attention back to my study of the Bhagavadgita. The Bhagavadgita teaches us among many other things, how to live in this world while ridding ourselves of the illusions the world presents to us in ways that resemble but are not limited to ignorance, arrogance, egoism, desire, and expectations. The Bhagavadgita proposes we not run from these things but meet them head on by following the 4 Paths of Yoga. The 4 Paths consist of Karma Yoga - the path of action, Bhakti Yoga - the path of devotion, Jnana Yoga - the path of knowledge, and Raja Yoga - the path of the mind & meditation as sited by Yogaprema.org. For the purposes of this article we will observe the first of these 4 Paths as it pertains to expectation(s).
1. Karma Yoga, the path of action, service to others, mindfulness, and remembering the levels of our being while fulfilling our actions or karma in the world.
The Karma Yoga describes the process of acting without expectation. Often times, it is our expectations that get in the way of our happiness or ability to be effective in any given situation. When you expect something, you are creating an illusion and actually participating in something called “expectation confirmation”. To provide an example, “This sort of thinking often contributes to stereotypes about social groups, since people only look for information that confirms their attitudes about these social groups.”-Psychology Expert, Kendra Cherry
Acting without expectation can be a motivating factor. Doing something because it is the right thing to do is powerful! Acting without expectation does not involve seeking praise, acknowledgement or anything for that matter. It’s about self and spiritual fulfillment. Allowing expectation to creep in to the mix cheapens the value of the act itself. "You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty" - Bhagavad Gita 2.47
Solution: Drown your expectations! We can only truly be responsible for ourselves and our own thoughts and actions. If our actions are guided by love and the will to fulfill our duties, then generally the expected results of our actions also begin to matter to us less. For instance, while cleaning the snow off of my car this morning, I took a few moments to also do the same for my elderly neighbor. I performed this action simply out of love and duty and without expectation. The result of the action has no bearing on the fulfillment the action itself provided and to assume a response on behalf of the elderly woman without her acknowledging me for the act in her own words in her own time is essentially creating an expectation for the next encounter between her and myself. Objective: Act without expectation and feel the weight of its burden begin to dissipate.
Getting What You Want
For me, getting what you want begins and ends with “why.” Why do you want what you want and why is that? I like to peel the onion down to the core to uncover what the true origins and motivations are that fuel my desires and I’d advise you to also consider your “why” before declaring your want(s). Getting what you want involves effective communication, process, clarity, and of course, knowing what you want. It’s the “why” that determines the true value of what you want and if you can remember to peel the onion, you may actually find yourself looking for what you want in the right places.
Solution: Peel before you act! Give yourself some time to make better decisions. Many of our wants stem from cultural and societal influences and often times don’t reflect the person we are but the person we’d like to be, the person we’d like to please, or the person we’d like others to believe we are. To make better decisions about choosing what we want, we must start at the source of the desire and work our way back until we reach the core reason, allowing the core to be the reason we choose to act or not. Objective: Consider your “self” before your want(s).
"When a man puts away all the desires of his mind, O Partha [Arjuna], and when his spirit is content in itself, then is he called stable in intelligence" - Bhagavad Gita 2.55