5 Things the Buddha Would Say About Expectations

There’s something I’ve experienced with expectations. They can create both greatness and not so greatness in people (including myself).

When I instructed for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), I saw over and over how clearly communicated expectations of students created a better leader, follower, outdoor cook, and expedition member.

But here’s where expectations are not so great: expectations in relation to transformation such as creating peace, joy, love, happiness, clarity, or any other quality we want to have (or in getting rid of fear, anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, etc.) and WHEN IT WILL HAPPEN.

The mind/ego wants the quick fix. The pill that will make it all better – fast. I get it. When I was in pain last month, I would take anything and do anything just for the pain to go away. 

Here’s the thing though. There is no quick fix for transformation. Something I tell my clients is, “think about how long the mind has been in a pattern of negative self-talk or judgment. It will take time for the pattern to change.”

And not only time, but patience, commitment, and practice. Over and over again – with a theme of gentleness with the process.

Then the mind says, “but it should have happened by now.” It’s been 1 month, or 2 months.

It takes longer. Change of thought patterns and habits takes more time. Give yourself the gift of patience.

How to work with expectations

Expectations are those seeds we plant in the mind of how things “should” be in the past, present or future. How I should be, how others should be, how life should be. 

What happens are those seeds are actually the seed of resentment – resentment of ourselves for not getting it “right” or “sooner,” or resentment of others for not “doing it right” or how we think “it” should be done. Or resentment of God/Spirit for not getting what we want/expect or in the time frame we expect it in.

So how does the Buddha figure into all of this?

I didn’t personally ask the Buddha about this, or read about it anywhere, but from what I’ve learned from the Buddhist teachings, I’m going to extrapolate. You can decide if they resonate for you.

5 things the Buddha would say about expectations:

  1. Watch for the seed of expectation (notice)
  2. Be mindful of this moment and the joy that comes without expectation
  3. Time is a mental construct – what the mind believes about time is not reality
  4. Cultivate patience and kindness with self and others
  5. Expect nothing, find gratitude in everything

The next time you notice you’re saying something should happen faster than it is, or should be easier than it is, take the seed in your mind and put it into your pocket (after you give yourself permission to stomp your feet and scream at life for not getting what you want when you want it).

Be kind with that seed. It is part of the human experience to have expectations. And each time you notice one arising or in place, you have the opportunity to change it. Noticing is the foundation of transformation.

Categories: Heart Centered Living

About the Author: Angela Patnode

My passion, my calling, is for you to be totally you. Through private coaching, in-depth retreats, and online group coaching programs, I help you tap into your intuition and clarify your desires and vision, I guide you to take active steps toward making your desires a reality.

4 comments to “5 Things the Buddha Would Say About Expectations

  1. eric

    Thank you Angela. I coined this little phrase this week and wanted to share it: Things are infinitely grey and therein lies the middle way. Grey is the presence of light and dark. In the grey judgment and right and wrong loose meaning.

    1. Angela Patnode

      Beautifully said Eric. The middle way is without judgment. This is the Ultimate Reality. The Truth of all things. When we have a glimpse of this, “problems” soften, self-loathing softens, and suffering decreases. What a beautiful path!

  2. Dixie L Estes

    Appreciation for this Buddhist site Angela. I especially like information regarding expectations in life.

    1. Angela Patnode

      Thanks for your comment Dixie. May you be well, happy and peaceful.
      With love,

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