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embrace-intention-without-expectationI have been failing at September for years.

The word failing is likely a bit dramatic, but I find myself returning annually to a familiar pattern. Each year, as September rolls around once again and the lazy days of summer are left behind, I vow to “get organized” and tame my little corner of the world. I have specific expectations about what this renewed level of organization will look like and the feelings of accomplishment it will produce. And every year, I am reminded once again that I am easily distracted and must exercise patience with myself as I settle into the rhythms of fall. Sigh…

I read a phrase the other day that piqued my curiosity. I have found myself continuing to ponder these words, which often translates into me thinking about them out loud here with you. I am beginning to suspect there might be September treasures within these words for all of us.

Embrace intention without expectation.

  • Intention is a determination to act in a certain way. Intention is an aim or a plan.
  • Expectation is a belief something specific will happen. Expectation is a feeling or conclusion about how successful or good someone or something will be.

Clearly, intentions must be translated into action in order for us to achieve our goals. Intentions alone are not enough. Scheduling my time, making lists, and setting goals are all part of moving in the direction of my dreams.

But what about expectations?

I think the difference between intention and expectation boils down to what I can control and how attached I am to a specific outcome. I can engage the world in a number of specific ways, but I can’t always control the outcome.

Intention is about the process and the unfolding. Expectation is about my attachment to particular results.

I can schedule time with God, time with family and friends, and time to write. I can show up in prayer, relationships and on the page, but what happens when I get there may not be exactly what I expected or even what I hoped. I can make better choices about what I eat and how much exercise I get, but can’t guarantee my body will always cooperate in the way I want. I can work hard to grow my business, build my platform, or raise money for my favorite cause, but the rest of the world might not see the value I see and cooperate in the ways I would prefer.

In the 12 Step program, we often recite the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

In between our intention and the potential fulfillment of our expectations, we have choices to make. Where do I expend my time, my resources, my passion, and my influence? What is a good use of my mental, emotional and spiritual energy and what is a waste of my time? What is my job and what is better left in the more capable hands of God?

I am beginning to find freedom in letting go of the death grip I have on my expectations.

Part of my struggle with expectations is the tendency to get bogged down by too much evaluation.

  • Is this working?
  • Am I doing a good job?
  • Are others pleased?
  • Is everybody happy?
  • Am I happy?
  • Is this the right way to go?

Is this moment living up to their/ my/ our expectations?

Perhaps instead, there is beauty in simply showing up, doing the next right thing and allowing it to be enough, regardless of the outcome. Maybe peace is found in letting go of the need for constant judgment, living in the moment, and just doing the best we can.

What might happen if we held our expectations and agendas loosely and allow ourselves to be surprised by what unfolds when we trust God and show up bravely one day at a time?

My thoughts on this topic feel somewhat unfinished, so I’d love for you to join the conversation. What do you think about the balance between intentions and expectations?