Our experiences are very easily defined by our expectations. Most see the world as they are rather than as it is. Only by recognizing this truth can we all grow.

There are countless examples I can give to shed light on this fact. For me, I came to this realization of how “expectations shape my experience” when I was reflecting on what it truly meant to wholeheartedly give a piece of myself to someone else.

I was committed to surrendering, to genuinely give wholeheartedly, but when I dug deeper I discovered this was only on the surface.

How can you enter a relationship, and surrender without expectations? Deep down inside, I realized that I had set certain expectations and conditions that needed to be met, and worst, they needed to be met not only by me, but by someone else. This truth startled me, and left me completely in despair. The fact that my expectations or desired outcomes were just as dependent on my actions as they were on boundaries that were completely beyond my control, was disheartening to say the least. I dove deep into research and introspection.

Philosopher Martin Buber explains “The primary word I–Thou can only be spoken with the whole being. The primary word I–It can never be spoken with the whole being.”

He describes the idea of I-Thou and I-It relationships — where every It is bounded by others; these are transactional type relationships like the ones you establish with someone providing you with a service like a waiter for example. They are a necessity. While Thou, is where there is no thing. Thou has no bounds. And these are the nourishing type of relationships, where no hidden agenda is put in place, you interact on a whole and complete level of being with no boundaries nor expectations.

We can all agree that the idea of establishing our relationships based on certain expectations just like a utility or service takes away from the beauty of connecting and embracing experiences with one another. When we do that we define all relationships as the I–It, and as such they become empty or perhaps even egotistic.

By bucketing every relationship under the I–It, we automatically wrap them with expectations preventing ourselves from surrendering to the process of trusting no matter the outcome. In contrast diminishing our expectations to nothing, gives us a sense of liberation. By letting go of our expectations, we detach from our past and submerse ourselves into the present with complete acceptance. It is, by definition, the practice of mindfulness.

I recognize now that by setting my expectations so high, I was replacing the I-Thou with I-It. I was isolating the intersubjectivity of a flourishing relationship that allows for the I-Thou between two people or perhaps even more.

So ask yourself, if it were possible to give wholeheartedly without expectations, what deep meaning and connection could you ignite? While I leave you with a question, this experience has taught me that it’s not enough to choose kindness, it’s not enough to love unconditionally… not unless you do so with no expectations, from a place of abundance, and with the intention of serving. It’s the path toward a life of authenticity and freedom.

As William Shakespeare brilliantly said, “expectation is the root of all heartache” .

Everything we do and feel is shrouded by unconscious expectations defined by our past or determined by our belief of the future. To liberate ourselves we must know who we truly aspire to be, while also being fully aware of who we are today. This process can be frightening because most times it’s easier to avoid seeking the truth than to remain in our comfort zone.

We must also face the fear of losing what we have become accustomed to. We have to recognize that our tendency is to envision an idealized, perfect world for ourselves, and we must find a way to let go of our habitual traits. Doing so affords freedom and opens our mindsets to a whole new world of possibilities. It liberates us from pain. It unlocks the patterns that trap us.

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” ~Samuel Johnson

Reprogram your subconscious mind every morning through journaling, and meditation. “The Artist Way” by Julia Cameron provides insights and methods on learning how to journal as part of your morning ritual. Journaling unblocks you, and is the foundation of the self-care movement. Be true to your daily intentions and update your belief-system. It’s liberating.

Adopting this process into my own life has made me feel like I could let go of any sadness or anger. My thoughts have become instinctively introspective and I wonder now who was it that I really needed to forgive — myself or those who failed to meet my expectations? The answer? It was me. I needed to forgive myself. We are all independent and I alone am responsible for a generative world, of my own creation.