I love stories. One of my favorites is The Tortoise and the Hare.
Tortoise and Hare are to race. Hare is cocky and sure to win. Tortoise is steady and plodding. He has no expectations of winning. He is simply focused on moving. So sure of victory, Hare fools around. He eats, he naps, he gets distracted. And in the end he loses. Yet he is still faster than Tortoise. What happened?
The moral of the story is that the race does not always go to the fleetest, but I don’t think that gets to the heart of the matter at all. The race does always go to the fleetest if the fleetest do their best. All things being equal, the Hare will never lose to the Tortoise. I think the real message of this story is that the Hare lost because he expected to win; and the Tortoise won because he had no expectations at all. Notice I did not say he expected to lose. If the Tortoise expected to lose he would be a fool to race. The Tortoise ran without expectations; and the Tortoise won.
You wake up in the morning filled with expectations. But what happens when things don’t go according to plan? You get anxious, frustrated, worried, angry and upset. You might object that if you don’t make plans nothing gets done, and I agree. By all means plan. But don’t expect Life to follow your plan.
Living without expectation is not living without a plan. It is living with the good sense and humor to know that nobody cares about your plan but you.
You are planning to go to the beach and it rains. You have several choices. You can go to the beach anyway and insist it is not raining. In the end you will be wet and miserable. You can stay home and stare out the window cursing your luck. You will be dry and miserable. You can punish yourself by finding something hateful to do and force yourself to do it. You will just be miserable. Or you can find something else to do that is pleasant. You can simply note the rain and move on to something else, maybe something like an indoor picnic or a movie rental marathon with friends that could only be done on a rainy day. No disappointment, no resentment, no expectations.
Living without expectations is not about being foolish. It is about being realistic. Living without expectations is not about abandoning plans for the future, but about abandoning surety regarding the future. Living without expectations is taking care of yourself and your world here and now, and letting life unfold as it will.
There is no guarantee that you will win the race. It isn’t even necessary that you do so. All that matters is that, if you choose to race, you choose to race wisely, enjoying each step. I promise, the end will come of its own accord, and if you haven’t enjoyed the journey the end holds only terror.