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[Panu Tangchalermkul | Flickr | Modified]

Don’t Let the Shackles of Expectations Hold You Back

We all have our own journeys to walk, might as well take off the shackles of expectations to make the trip easier.

Whether they are real or perceived, expectations of who we are supposed to be have a profound impact on our journeys.

Subconsciously, we hold onto these expectations because they provide us with a rudimentary map. They provide us with a destination but lack the thrill of adventure.

Expectations are an easy way out of pursuing a life that matters.

Those who travel the paved road of expectations arrive exactly where they started: fear.

Fear of recognizing they are made for more.

Fear of heading off course.

Fear of discovering their potential.

Expectations shackle us by the ankles until we muster the strength to shake them off. Stop dragging expectations through the muck. Break free.

Meet Alex — The English Major Turned Entrepreneur

Studying English with a minor in Chinese doesn’t typically lead one down the entrepreneurial track.

But it did for Alex.

Alex was supposed to graduate on time. Maybe go to grad school, maybe write a book, maybe do something his parents could be proud of.

Instead, Alex took a year off to build a start-up with his friends. A start-up he had no business building.

Or so people thought.

I met Alex Rawitz last year after his announcement of launching a start-up, Verbatm.

I was still in the middle of writing my book, The Millennial Way, and knew he’d be a perfect fit. Why? Because like myself, Alex was breaking free from his shackles of expectations.

Sorry Mom and Dad

Alex faced it; I face it, everyone faces it — expectations from loved ones.

Our loved ones are our greatest supporters, but also our biggest obstacles. Without intending, they subtly hold us back with the invisible chains of who they want us to be.

I love my parents.

I love how hard they worked to ensure I received a good education from a reputable university. I love how much they pushed me to succeed without forcing it. I love how well they guided me toward an engineering degree.

But I don’t want to be an engineer anymore. I don’t want to answer to the man. I want to create my own life now.

As I work to transition away from a 9-to-5 into a creative, self-employed career, I still feel the weight of everyone’s expectations slowing me down.

But the weight is lighter. The weight is manageable.

How did I do it? How did Alex do it?

Find the right key.

Unlock the Shackles of Expectations

There exists the person you want to be and the person others want you to be. Can you guess which one is more important?

The way we perceive others’ expectations of us has an effect on our journey. And it’s not easy to shake.

It takes maturity and empathy to overcome the expectations people have for us.

Maturity to understand that we each have our story to tell, dream to chase, and journey to follow.

And empathy to recognize our loved ones don’t want failure to hurt us.

In my book, The Millennial Way, I offer three ways to overcome the expectations of others:

  • Don’t say anything, just go after your dream
  • Reel your loved ones in slowly
  • Just tell them the truth

Of all the options, I believe the best solution is always honesty.

Be clear about who you want to be and what you want to accomplish to your loved ones. Have an honest conversation.

Alex told his parents straight up that he wanted to take a year off of school to build Verbatm:

At the end of the day, they’re not displeased or unhappy. They’ve never forbidden me from doing any of this, with the promise to graduate. Which I was totally on board with, I think it would be silly not to have the degree after putting in the work for it.

But they see I’m happy, and they see that I’m productive and working on something. It’s an interesting chapter of my life, and they are curious to see what happens next.

You might help someone realize their dream, and in return become a spring of inspiration for them rather than a well of envy.

Find the right key that works best for you.

Conclusion

I do my thing and you do yours. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, then it is beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped.
— The Gestalt Prayer — Fritz Perls

The moment you are willing to disappoint others to exert your free will to follow your journey, this is the moment of perfect freedom.

Find your key. Unlock those shackles.

Discussion Question: How have expectations altered your journey? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the 2 Comments.

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Stay-at-home dad. 9-to-5 escapee. Aldi aficionado. Me in a nutshell→ declanwilson.co/start-here

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