I don’t know about you, but all too often I end up disappointed.
I feel let down, a little cheated, as if the big beautiful, shiny, singing, dancing, life enhancing box of promises I bought ends up somewhat mediocre once I get past the packaging and peek inside.
Something that’s not bad in itself, but frustratingly less good than I had hoped it would be.
Is this something you ever feel?
We all have blind spots – areas where however much we try to change, we keep getting tripped up on the same kind of situations, falling into the same patterns.
We end up feeling the same kind of disappointment – with the world, with other people, with ourselves.
Expectation, and the almost inevitable disappointment that follows, is one of my personal blind spots. Maybe it’s one of yours too.
So let’s take a closer look at how we can be less disappointed, and less often.
Disappointment, in its simplest definition, is the gap between what you expect, and what you actually get.
It’s the shortfall between the gorgeous packaging (and all it so seductively suggests to you) and the cheap plastic gift inside.
So if we end up disappointed, there’s really only one way to become less disappointed next time. We need to close the gap.
To reduce the distance between any two objects, there are three things we can do:
1. Move one object closer.
2. Move the other object closer.
3. Move both objects closer.
Our objects in this case are, at one end, the expectation we carry, and at the other, the reality we end up with.
At the expectation end, maybe we’re just being unrealistic. Maybe we’re hoping for too much, too soon, as a result of years of being bludgeoned with messages that we can have it all, and then some.
At the opposite end, we have the reality.
Now although we can’t always change what we end up with, we can change how we perceive it.
We can approach from an attitude of greater appreciation, and see the good in what we have. Focus on the more positive elements.
In other words we can enjoy the doughnut rather than bemoan the absence of doughnut in the central hole.
All of this may well help us close that disappointment gap and feel better.
But what if we threw out this whole approach and replaced it with something completely different?
What it we embraced another perspective that helped us sidestep this whole expectation/disappointment trap altogether?
When it comes to creativity, this is an approach that can work very well.
When you get an idea for a new creative project, how does it come to you? What sort of form does it take?
Because of the depth of our imaginations, more often than not the idea comes dripping in beautiful detail, a bursting intricate jewellery box of an idea, rather than a piece of coal we think we might be able to chip away at to reveal the hidden diamond.
In our minds, it’s as if we have already finished the project, and we can virtually see, taste and touch our masterwork.
Then we realise we haven’t actually created it yet, and have to actually do the work.
Cue the first signs of our old friend disappointment.
So what if we bypassed this completely?
What if we switched our focus from the end product, to the initial spark?
What if we let ourselves feel that energy and excitement right here in our hands, rather then let our attention drift to the vague middle distance of what the project might become?
If you have a child, you don’t, the moment they’re born, see them as a renowned musical artist, leading heart surgeon or the founder of an international charity.
It would be ridiculous to laden their lives with this kind of expectation before they’re even a few hours old.
As the child grows though, you will notice what they enjoy, and nurture that, allow them to explore what they like to do, and what they’re good at, helping them find the sweet spots where these two elements overlap.
So let’s apply this same approach to your creativity, and to developing your ideas and projects.
In other words, let’s let go of expectation and ride our inspiration.
What happens then?
We become so much more present in our creative work.
We immerse ourselves in the beauty of the unravelling moments.
We lose track of the future – of next month, next week, tomorrow, even a few minutes away.
Because we’re channelling all of our creativity and energy into what we’re working on right here and right now.
What this also allows for – aside from a far more engaged, enthusiastic and passionate artist – is the lovely concept of happy accidents, where we stumble across “mistakes” and detours that lead us down wonderful paths of new creating that we never could have discovered if we had been unwaveringly set on the project’s outcome before we even began it.
This kind of approach – letting go of expectation and riding your inspiration – might seem daunting at first.
We need to get used to travelling without a map and following the wind, rather than having a specific destination and every step along the route already mapped out.
So start small. Try this in your creative life, with a baby-sized project.
Take an idea, and just roll with it, let it evolve as it wants, as you create.
A very simple way to start is by just taking a pen and some paper and doodling. See where the pen takes you, how the shapes unfold. Let go of your expectation, see where your inspiration leads you.
Another example is free writing. Just let the words tumble out without judgement, enjoy the freedom of creating without knowing where it might end up.
How can you experiment with this approach in your creative life this week?
How will you let go of some of your expectations and instead, ride your inspiration?
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