Lessons in Letting Go of Expectations

Today there’s no “5 Steps” or “10 Things”, or anything formulaic like that. Today I’m just sharing something with you that I’ve been mulling over. I’ve been thinking about expectations, and how holding on to them has tripped me up in the past. The recent past, in fact, specifically in a business context. I’ve always been someone who trusts easily. Many years ago, I had a friend who was suspicious of everyone he met. He ascribed motives to people who probably didn’t give him a second thought. I always used to think that it’s a terribly sad way to live. The pendulum swings way over to the other side for me. You wouldn’t be far off if you called me naïve, but I prefer to think of myself as trusting. In a situation where the stakes aren’t high, this isn’t a problem. It’s when I’m emotionally invested in the outcome that the thought of letting go just seems impossible. Sometimes you have to learn the same lesson again and again before it sticks. Even then, it may still feature on your list of things to feel sensitive about. It feels like I’ve had this track on repeat, and I’m not sure where to switch it off.

For the last 13 years, I’ve traded skills for money on an hourly basis. Photography shoots come and go. Some are wonderful, and I really do love photography. The thing is, most of my photo shoots are fleeting in nature. The shoot is booked, I do the work, and then I move on. There have been jobs I’ve absolutely loved, but not one that I became emotionally invested in over a period of time. Things have changed in that regard. Storytelling is a strategic process that, in most cases, should take place over a few months for it to make a significant impact on an audience. Since launching the storytelling side of the business, I have been approached to do proposals for all sorts of different projects. I have been excited about every single one of them. This is where it gets hard. My excitement has turned to expectation and I have been left disappointed. More than once I’ve wholeheartedly believed someone when they’ve said yes without them marrying actions with their words. I realise that there can be a million and one reasons that a project is on hold, or even cancelled. It could be red tape, it could be financial difficulties, it could be a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with me or what my overthinking brain can conjure up. By the time I deliver a proposal to a client I’ve spent a lot of time strategising and brainstorming with them. So much so that I’ve envisioned the intricate details of the project and how I will bring it to life. In more cases than I’d care to admit, I’ve had to wait. And wait, and wait. I am many things, but patient isn’t one of them. There’s a fine line between following up with a client and making a nuisance of yourself. So, after following up a few times, I’ve had to let it go. I’ve had to accept that some of these projects may never come to fruition. No matter how much I protest, or how I kick and scream, this is something that is entirely out of my control. Perhaps that is the crux of the issue. When everything flows smoothly and goes according to plan there is no need to get your knickers in a knot about unmet expectations, because there aren’t any. But when you’ve invested your heart and your soul in something that may never happen, isn’t it just natural to be a little disappointed? Or even a lot?

I’d love to be one of those people who can see something for what it is, and let it pass just as quickly as it came. I have no idea how to do that, but I suspect it happens one step at a time. This has been a continual lesson in letting go and accepting what is, instead of desiring what could be. There are still projects I am excited about, I just need to reign in the expectation and accept that what will be, will be.

Until next time,


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