It is my intention to be radically real in my writing here, so I have to confess before we go any further that this isn’t a peppy blog post about how you can manifest your dreams. There are many of those types of posts out there on blogs and social media, and in books. Some of these posts are wonderfully motivating and supportive, not to mention comforting. But what I want to discuss today is what I have found to be the “unhelpful” side of the manifestation trend: more specifically, its unexpected side-effect: expectation.
I used to devour anything related to manifestation, staring dreamy-eyed at the Instagram posts of those people who were making their dream lives their reality, and devouring book after book from many spiritual gurus and thought leaders. I took to heart all of their messages, and their methods. I created manifestation boards, wrote lists, employed visualisation techniques, and many of the other practices that were suggested. I even quit my job, left my friends and family, and went to the other side of the world on my own, taking “the risk” that was so often touted as necessary in these stories.
The impression I had gained from all my reading and Instagram-watching was that if I did the practices, took the leap, surrendered to the Universe, I would be magically rewarded. I had taken to heart so many stories of dream homes magically appearing on the market at an unlikely affordable price, or the dream guy suddenly stumbling into your life and changing everything, or the publishing contract, or travel opportunity, or the right career presenting itself to you after you’d quit the life-sucking job you hated. If it happened to them, it would happen that way for me too because that’s the way the Universe works according to these stories (or so it seemed to me).
And there is was: the incredibly subtle yet powerful infiltration of expectation into my mind.
When I quit my job and went to New Zealand, I expected to find everything I was looking for and when, in reality, I was an absolute mess and the “promised” joy didn’t appear, I was so utterly and deeply bereft and confused. I did everything they said I should do. Why hasn’t the Universe rewarded me like they said it would?
It sent me into a spiritual crisis that I am still feeling my way through 18 months later. But, the doubt that rocked my world has become a healthy skepticism. I wrote about this in my post Why Losing Belief Isn’t Always Bad, so I won’t go into that any further here. Suffice it to say, the skepticism that has prompted me to question a lot of things has ultimately revealed a lot of conditioned thoughts and behaviours that I had adopted. Yes, the “spiritual” and New Age realms are not impervious to this.
Please don’t mistake my words here as criticism or rejection of manifestation practices. They can be excellent tools to help us hone our focus and our intentions when it comes to our goals and desires, and I do still use them. But, as with any set of practices or beliefs, we need to be mindful about how blindly we follow these manifestation methods. I think one of the potential problems inherent with manifestation is that it leads you to believe that if you complete a certain action, adopt a certain mindset or follow a certain behaviour protocol, you will attain a specific circumstance or be rewarded with what you desire. That if you follow all the rules of the manifestation process, you will be rewarded because that’s how the Universe functions.
By adopting this belief, I had unwittingly placed absolutely ENORMOUS expectations on Life and it was no wonder that I was so utterly disappointed. I had taken it for granted that I would automatically be given what I’d asked for. I thought the thoughts, followed the methods, and sat back and waited for My Dream Life to materialise.
In all honesty, I am unsure whether the Universe is completely rigged in our favour. There is an unpredictability to Life that cannot be ignored. I do, however, still believe that we can have some form of energetic interaction with the Universe and I am curious to learn more about that and share what I discover.
It is helpful to remember that there is often magnificent beauty in the unexpected.
More and more, I realise that manifestation is no magic button and that we often have to make things happen, rather than wait for them to be given. Creating the life you want requires a lot of hard work, and it is tumultuous, uncertain and sometimes painful. But, it is also beautiful, vivid and eye-opening. Do we always get all the opportunities we want or deserve? I don’t know. I don’t think there is a guarantee. If I put myself out there whilst dating (for example), will I immediately find my path aligned with a man who is right for me? Well, it hasn’t happened so far – though I hope it will! My point is, our thoughts are powerful, but just because you think something, don’t assume that it is going to happen.
If there is no guarantee that we can manifest everything we desire, does that mean we can’t be happy? Life is full of cycles and duality, lows and highs, peaceful times and times that challenge us to our very core. But, happiness isn’t dependent upon getting that book deal (though I’d love one!), or the perfect house with the ocean view, or whatever it is that you’d like to manifest.
Everyone deserves to be happy. But, don’t get so caught up in expecting a specific outcome that you miss being happy now, or in whatever circumstance you find yourself in. I don’t think anyone can be happy all of the time, but there is ample opportunity for happiness out there if you are open to it. I will keep working towards my book deal, on finding a soulful, romantic relationship, on getting my body strong and all the other things I want in my life, but I will not sit here waiting for the Universe to plop them into my open, expectant hands, and I will not let those things be the definition of my happiness.
Basically, I will be grateful for whatever I am given, for the opportunity to exist and interact with this beautiful world, and I will be open to the beauty and growth within whatever situations arise for me now and in the future. It is helpful to remember that there is often magnificent beauty in the unexpected.
I want to leave you with one last thought to consider that really comforted me when I heard it:
Having no expectation leaves the space for infinite possibilities.
If you feel it will help, ask yourself where you might have placed expectations on Life, and whether you might find more fulfillment by letting go of them.
As always, thank you for reading. I really appreciate your presence here and love connecting with you. If you feel that this post will resonate with someone, please share. It may be just what someone needs to hear. And in turn, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this topic so please comment below, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.