Expectations—A Courage Buster

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy stumbled along the Yellow Brick Road with her three friends and Toto only to learn at the end of her journey that she had had the power to fulfill her dream all along. Are you stumbling along a career path because of pre-defined expectations? Have you fallen asleep in the poppy field? Will you take time for self-reflection—to dwell deeply upon what you might stand for and love? Is conscious courage development your endgame?

The word “courage” comes from the French word corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” So courage is really about acting from your heart and spirit — from the center of your being — the true identity hidden beneath the false self of the ego. By delving into the heart and spirit of our true identities, we begin to recognize our innate courage as well as the ego’s insidious control mechanisms in the form of expectations, as one example, which capitalize on fear and insecurity. As we recognize the fears that the ego uses to justify its self-importance, we undermine the ego’s power to dominate our lives and begin to manifest our true identities. Vickie shared how expectations had her constantly running.

Running to the Future

If you are unemployed, you may operate like Vickie. She always started her day with: “What do I have to do today to get the results I want?” The mere action of “doing something” fosters the belief that what you do generates results. Vickie was running to the future (and away from the present). Does this sound familiar? Eventually, Vickie realized that trying to “get somewhere” left her drained emotionally, spiritually and energetically. She finally admitted, “Absolutely nothing resulted! Sometimes the more you chase things, the farther away from you they go.” Take a moment to reflect on your thought process, the expectations you hold for your actions and about why you do what you do. Here are two examples.

•  You send out a marketing letter with the hope you will receive a response that leads to a nice contract. Expected result: the contract (or visibility) you have been waiting for.

•  You mail your resume with a great cover letter, knowing that you are the perfect fit for this opportunity.

Expected result: a phone call requesting the interview that lands you the job and change you wish for.

Observe your thoughts in relationship to your actions, then identify the expectations that you bring to those actions. Realizing that expectations saddle our actions with unnecessary emotional and mental baggage, we can begin to free ourselves from all that extra weight. We can still execute what needs to be done, but without projecting our expectations onto those actions—how the outcome will comfort, change or advance our lives—we free ourselves to accomplish much more while expending less energy.

Sometimes an expectation attempts to serve personal gain; other times, there is a sense of fulfilling a genuine need. Perhaps your self-image is to be loving and generous, and you take pride in your sacrifices. These behaviors protect and enhance your self-image, especially when they do seem to achieve the expected results. Yet, excavating your true Self involves discovering the untruths you told yourself a long time ago, untruths that helped to create the false scripts such as believing a humiliating statement your sixth grade teacher made in front of the class that you would never be good in math (and you became a statistician) or a parent told you that you’d never amount to anything (and your unique creativity launched into a successful entrepreneur). These undermining scripts will continue, as an adult, to keep you asleep and in unconscious, counterproductive patterns of behavior.

Sometimes an expectation attempts to serve personal gain; other times, there is a sense of fulfilling a In The Seat of the Soul Gary Zukav confirms that “You cannot choose your intentions consciously until you become conscious of each of the different aspects of yourself. If you are not conscious of each part of yourself, you will have the experience of wanting to say, or to intend, one thing, and finding yourself saying or intending something else.”


“I do not expect anything from others, so their actions cannot be in opposition to wishes of mine,” wrote Paramahansa Yogananda. Before I understood the truth of this insight, I would respond to a request for a speaker’s packet by promptly mailing it and then lingering in expectations that this would be my big break. When nothing happened I experienced, like Vickie, tremendous disappointment. Eckhart Tolle clarifies this human condition in A New Earth, “When you no longer have such expectations, all self-created suffering comes to an end.” With courage, meditation and a big dose of Spiritual Intelligence (SQ)*, I learned how my expectations created my distress and prolonged my suffering. I was able to move beyond my expectations only through the sheer commitment of cultivating contemplation in the form of silence. The outcome: inner peace.

People have different projections and aversions to the concept of silence through meditation, and many people find it difficult. Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in Wherever You Go There You Are, “People say they can’t meditate, what they really mean is that they won’t make the time for it, or that when they try, they don’t like what happens. It isn’t what they are looking for or hoping for. It doesn’t fulfill their expectations. So maybe they should try again, this time letting go of their expectations and just watching.” How do you deal with disappointments at work when your expectations have not been filled? Wouldn’t you prefer to avoid disappointment altogether?

Most people say, ‘I don’t want to work that hard. I don’t want to be self-disciplined, I don’t want to sacrifice. Complaining (one of eight courage busters) is easier. I want a courage pill!” The fact is you cannot learn courage by doing something you already know.

And, courage will never become an app!

* Spiritual Intelligence (SQ): SQ is secular spirituality; is an innate capability that we can learn to use based on experience not beliefs. Physicist Danah Zohar’s research defines courage as one of the levels of Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) or wisdom. She writes in SQ, Spiritual Intelligence, the Ultimate Intelligence, “To have high SQ is to be able to use the spiritual to bring greater context and meaning to living a richer and more meaningful life, to achieve a sense of personal wholeness, purpose and direction.”

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