So much has happened in my life since this time last year, and yet sometimes it seems like nothing has changed at all. Does anyone else ever experience this feeling? Days pass, relationships deepen, adventures occur, seeds are planted, fun is had, tasks are accomplished, but at the beginning of a new year, you're still left wondering why nothing is monumentally different.
Lately I've been taking steps to create new experiences and opportunities for myself, but the progress feels glacial. Most of the time it isn't, but when I want something badly enough and don't see immediate signs of change, it's easy for me to slip into a state of anxiety and worry. I obsess over things I have zero control over, then worry about how those things will stack up in my future if they don't pan out like I thought.
Whether it's creative writing, cooking a meal, planning a trip, or even spending time with loved ones, I always inevitably develop expectations for how something will turn out. Having expectations, even high ones, is completely normal and natural, but I've learned that when I latch on to those expectations and treat them as certainties, I make myself suffer for no reason.
Experiencing the annoying side effects of this expectation pattern reminded me that I need to detach myself from the outcome of whatever I'm doing.
Focusing so much on what I think should be happening in my life, instead of embracing the moment and the process, becomes stifling. It's impossible to be open to the beauty, possibility, and wonder of the universe if I'm always fixated on one specific thing happening.
Gabby Bernstein said something poignant recently on her Instagram: "The energy behind a ‘should' is controlling and manipulating. The universe does not align with that energy. Therefore, we cut off communication and receptivity. It's when we let go of the outcome that we open up our perceptual world view and allow ourselves to be led." Amen to that.
Life unfolds in myriad ways, and most of them are never what we expect. In fact, what happens is often better than what we expect, and certainly more indicative of what we need at any given point in time.
But sometimes it seems like there are a thousand stages to pass through before you reach the point of realizing that whatever it was you worried about somehow ended up working out for the best. Discomfort, anxiety, stress, sadness, frustration, binge-watching every season of The Vampire Diaries, confusion, then some more frustration. Which is why the only sane way to get through a time of change is to let go of your attachment to the outcome—and maybe swap your Netflix binge for a new hobby (Or don't. That show is fantastic.).
Release yourself from the pressure of clutching a particular idea to death. Surrender to your circumstances. Breathe and trust that the universe works for your highest good.
That's what I'm working on these days. Getting out of my own head—my own way—and opening my eyes and heart to receiving. It's a daily struggle, but I've found a few simple ways of dealing with it.
Here's what I'm attempting to do whenever I find myself feeling impatient or frustrated that things aren't coming together the way I want them to.
1. Pause and reflect. Take a moment to stop and pay attention to your thought patterns. If you're worried about not getting the promotion you applied for at work, ask yourself why. What will happen if you don't get it? Is there some equally wonderful thing that could happen instead? Why do you want this so much? What feelings are at the root of this particular desire? Is it fear, insecurity, ego? Be honest with yourself about whatever you're feeling so you can better understand where your emotions are coming from.
2. Embrace the process. Reflect on whatever steps you’re taking and thank yourself for doing the work. Remind yourself that the work you do has value and importance, regardless of what comes from it. The happiness or sense of achievement it brings you in the process is enough.
3. Be grateful. Acknowledge what has gone right so far, instead of what hasn’t. Sit quietly with that contentment and appreciation until it fills you up.
4. Move on. Keep doing what you’re doing, or continue to make other positive changes instead. Make lists, make plans, take action. Just push onward in the face of uncertainty.
My best wishes for peace to anyone reading this who may be struggling to detach from the outcome and surrender to the journey. We got this.