Learning to Let Go of Expectations in 2018

I am not setting a single New Year’s resolution this year. Here’s why:

Even at a young age, we begin setting expectations on our lives. We start mapping out how we think things should go and who we will be. When I was little, I wanted to be an archeologist. Actually, I just knew I would be one; there were no other options! As I grew older, though, my interests and goals began to shift, moving me towards college and what I wanted to study, as well as future jobs. I thought I had everything planned out: and then I got sick. Suddenly, the image of how I thought my life was going to go was shattered. I traded classes and textbooks for hospitals and surgeries and I am not going to lie: I felt lost. I felt like suddenly I was living another life. I felt like I was living in a nightmare that I would wake up from and everything would be just as it was. I grabbed and clung to any piece of my “old” life that I could, desperately trying to regain control of the life I thought I had planned out.

But the more my life changed with surgeries and hospital stays and procedures, the further away my old life felt. I started to forget what it felt like not to worry about my health or an upcoming surgery. I started to forget what a night with friends eating whatever I wanted with lots of energy felt like.

I started feeling like a stranger in my own life.

There came a time, though, when I decided that I was going to try to start letting go of the expectations that I had placed on my life. Clinging on to how I thought my life should be going was only causing me more pain as I began to realize that my life was simply not the same anymore. But I am not going to lie: letting go of my expectations was a painful process. I felt like I was saying goodbye to everything I thought I knew and the “old” me, stepping into a new, uncertain territory. But as I began releasing the old expectations I had on my life one by one, I began to feel a sense of relief. Holding on to so many expectations was making what was already a hard time in my life, even harder. I was not only facing emotions from the present, but powerful emotions from the past. I decided that I was going to start accepting my new life for what it now was and restrain from placing any new expectations on it. What was going to happen was going to happen regardless of whether it aligned with any expectations that I had set on it or not, so why not just let them go?

It is important to note, though, that while I did begin letting go of the expectations I had on my life, I held on to my goals. Expectations are how we “think” something should go, while goals are something that we hope to accomplish, whether they are short-term or long-term. It is perfectly OK to keep your goals in place, but it is also important to release any expectations you have placed on yourself in terms of how or when you are going to complete them. Take your time, pace yourself, and set smaller, realistically attainable goals along the way in addition to your larger goals for the future.

2018 is just around the corner and with the New Year comes the tradition of setting expectations for the 12 months ahead. This year, however, I will not be placing any expectations on myself or the year as a whole. When you have a chronic illness, so much can change in such a little amount of time and there are many uncertainties about the future. As much as we try, we just cannot see the future and know what is coming our way next. For this reason, I will be challenging myself to select several words to live by in the New Year instead. Through the good and the bad times, I will strive to live by these words to help get through.

My words for 2018 are: Live. Laugh. Purpose. Healing. Grace. Abundance.

I challenge you to select your own set of words to live by in the New Year as well. Choose words that you want to guide your mindset in the New Year and help you through times of trouble. Not sure where to start? Here are a few to select from:

Accept. Accomplish. Joy. Kindness. Learn. Motivate. Trust. Open-minded. Uplift. Appreciate. Bliss. Bravery. Forgive. Happy. Hope. Love. Meaning. Positive. Grow. Relax. Shine. Transform. Wander. Fearless. Enjoy. Confident. Capable. Bloom. Nourish. Overcome.

Write these words down in places where you will see them daily, and when you find yourself facing challenges beyond your control, think back to the words you have chosen and live by them! You may not know how the words you have selected fit into your life right now, but as the New Year begins, you will find where their place is in your life. When you finally learn to release some of the expectations you have placed on your life, you learn to accept the journey that you have been placed on, piece by piece. You let go of the “this is how it should be” thoughts and replace them with “this is how it is.” You begin face each new challenge with a different mindset, a mindset that gives you hope rather than disappointment.

Each new year brings a new opportunity to reinvent yourself, try a new hobby, or live differently, but do not let that become a burden on you. Focus instead on simply living by the words you have chosen and embracing the little things in life. Laugh until you cry, smile until your face becomes sore, dance like no one is watching, sing at the top of your lungs, be thankful, dream big, and never, ever give up your fight.

Brooke Bogdan