Before I set off to take my first official golf lesson with golf pro Joe Laurentino, a client reassured me saying, “Don’t worry, you’ll be terrible at first, every one is. Eventually you’ll be able to use your flexibility and awareness of your body to your advantage.” A physical therapist and TPI Certified Golf Instructor added, “It’s a torturous games, and it only gets worse as you get better!” Tempting. I’m not sure why I decided to still pick up the club and play after such warnings, but I did, and I loved it! Was it my pre-set low expectations that allowed me the freedom to be a beginner and have fun?
Let’s talk about EXPECTATIONS!!! To expect or not to expect, that is the question! (had to say it- sorry!)
Many of us grew up dreaming, setting goals, and working hard to accomplish those goals (earned success- the American Dream!). We have coaches, teachers, parents, spouses, friends, bosses and most of all our inner critic to let us know if we are fulfilling the set expectations. If so, we feel content, successful, a connection to others, and at the very least we subconsciously feel worthy of love and acceptance from others. To miss the mark however, can feel devastating and isolating. According to the inner judge you are not good enough! A failure. (It’s not just me who has this dialogue is it? That would be embarrassing!)
What would happen if we flipped our stance on expectations? … like the Dutch! Yes, I’m guilty of generalization, BUT my remarks come from a survey in which the Dutch were ranked the happiest people in the world. Under further investigation they concluded that the Dutch have relatively low expectations for the coming year so they’re rarely disappointed (other factors include their egalitarian society and a good economy!). For a socialized American it’s kind of a grim message. How do we make progress without expectations? I consulted the writing of Rajanaka Tantra scholar, Professor Douglas Brooks. Here’s what I took from him: Unrealistic expectations can disable the soul. Even realistic goals that we strive to fulfill have a finite value and getting stuck on the goal (hitting an 80, reaching a career position) causes us to miss the other lessons or joys that are being offered (working on your short game, enjoying your friends, the outdoors). When put within context without attachment they motivate and enable progress showing us what we need, want, and what the world is offering.
So what can we take from being beginners, competitive high achievers, from falling on our faces, the Dutch, and Professor Brooks? Use expectations as a motivator but not as a line judge calling you “worthy or unworthy.” Get back up! This is how we grow, this is how we fulfill dreams! Stop. Breath. Observe. Notice: we are our cruelest judge! It’s not about releasing desires, having no expectations, and becoming stagnant. It’s about becoming so fluid that no matter what happens we find our most sacred gift of laugher, enjoy our serving of humble pie, and get back at it! It’s expectations without attachment to outcomes! Release the weight of pleasing others and/or your inner critic- now this is Freedom! (and for people like me it takes awareness and practice!)
The Practice: Take a breath. Focus on your breath and one visual aid (a blade of grass). Use this deep breath as a wedge to open or extend the moment. You have space now to reflect. From this new perspective can you remember why you’re doing what you’re doing (fun, love of the moment, growth, quality time)? Can you laugh at how seriously you take yourself or the moment? (If not- fine- just notice) What opportunities are now opening? Take another breath.
Opening to the game of life,