Aspirations and Expectations: The perpetual mind war

“So where do you expect to be in 5 years?” is a well-known question that makes its way into almost every interview session. This powerful question has a rather demanding nature and persists ferociously in the mind of a thinker until it is temporarily tamed by an answer. Temporarily being the key word here, because the very nature of an “expectation” is to never quite be fulfilled or met with. 

An “aspiration,” on the other hand, is defined as “a hope or ambition of achieving something.” The fine line of difference between hoping for something and expecting something is revolutionary and understanding this can drastically change our lives for the better. The following are some ways in which we can train our minds to expect less and aspire more:-

  • Be mindful of the effects of expectations.
    One of the four noble truths that Gautama Buddha came to attain during his journey towards enlightenment was that the greater the expectations, the more likely you are to suffer. Most of our expectations come with a certain degree of entitlement to satisfy the ego, and hence we experience emotional turmoil every time our expectations are not met with. When was the last time you felt let down by your expectations? How did you feel? Keep a written record of your reactions, and you will find yourself steering away from expectations. 

  • Enjoy the journey and forget the result.
    Expectations are result-oriented, and aspirations are process-oriented. Instead of “expecting” a grade A on your Chemistry exam, “aspire” to ace your exams, work hard for them, and once they are over, don’t dwell on the possibilities of the results. Choose to spend your time doing activities that are enjoyable and/or knowledgeable and instead of limiting yourself to those that promise returns.

  • Find your calling. Take time out to find out what it is that truly makes you happy. Aspirations are long-term goals that you hope to achieve through hard work and determination. Expectations are short-term assumptions that take up mind-space and result in probable disappointments. Always remember to water the seeds of your passion, and not those of expectations.

  • Engage in team sports. Team sports such as basketball, football, hockey, etc. teach you the important values of trust, victory and loss. You begin to aspire to win not only for yourself but for the team, and you learn how results are not always in your control but are determined by the working of larger and more universal systems around you. Once you become accustomed to taking uncontrollable losses in your stride, you instinctively begin to expect less from most aspects of your life.