Aspirations and expectations. Two words that sound much the same, mean something totally different and are almost always confused. The instinctive tension between them feels like a good source of reflection to me.
On the one hand, I’m somebody incredibly optimistic. As a kid my school report literally said:“Jonathan must stop looking out the window and dreaming during class”. I’m often told I’m contagiously optimistic. This is my aspirational side.
On the other hand, I was once told by a friend that I seem to never quite be satisfied, I’m always wanting more. I remember him saying that clearly because I think it really helped me change. Thanks to this feedback and a lot of meditation, I think I’ve succeeded in reducing my expecting side.
In Buddhism they say that suffering is more or less because you either crave something that isn’t, or you resist something that is. Either way, you’re expecting things to be other than what they are right now. High expectations therefore seem like a recipe for disappointment.
However, if we succeed in not confusing them, it is possible to aspire to a lot but not expect. I can aspire to democracy changing, to organisations becoming free-er, to education becoming more child-led, to going surfing this year, to being healthy… When I aspire to all these things, my creativity is switched firmly into ‘ON’ mode. I act.
It’s when those aspirations become aspirations become expectations that life starts to get hard.
So the secret for me at least is in bothhaving high aspirations and low expectations. The space between those two curves leads to happiness, contentment, gratitude, creativity, joy.
When I aspire to many things, without expecting them to occur. My day to day is fuelled by positivity, but never hit by reality. Since reading Le monde va beaucoup mieux que vous ne le croyez!(english translation: the world is doing a lot better than you think!) by French positive psychologist Jacques Lecomte, I’ve sometimes described myself as an 'opti-realist'. Using optimism for it’s proven ability to create positive change. Grounded in realism so as to not be deluded or just constantly disapointed.
The space between high aspirations and low exceptions, without confusing or correlating the two feels like where it’s at.
How about you? How do you mange these two tensions?
Take care and be well,