I’m putting together an eBook for people interested in using mindfulness to overcome addiction problems. I’ll share the chapters on here as I write them. Here is part eight in the series – you will find links to earlier posts at the end of this one.
What is Your Life Purpose?
What if humans are kind of like sunflowers? What I mean by this is that perhaps our only purpose in life is to blossom. In my experience, the key to feel fulfilled has just been to allow this blossoming to occur? I do this by getting out of our own way so the good stuff can rise to the surface.
“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
The Tyranny of Expectations
One thing that has gotten most in the way of my own blossoming has been my expectations – I’m referring here to the stories in my head about what the future should be like. Despite my lousy history of ‘knowing what’s good for me’, I can still get completely carried away by these stories. It is only when I let go of these expectations that I can enjoy what life is delivering up to me in this moment.
It is the unexpectedness of my journey since giving up alcohol that has made it so wonderful. There have been so many twists and turns along the way, and I would never have guessed that things could be like they are now. My life today is far superior to what I had thought possible at the start of my journey, so I’m grateful to have escaped the limits of my expectations.
When I look back over the last nine years, almost none of the good stuff originated from my own expectations. I wanted to become a monk who lived alone in a cave – it sounds nice, but for me it would have been just more running away from life. I never planned to become a father, a husband, a writer, or a mindfulness coach, and these things would never have happened if life had gone according to my plan.
I remember when I was going through detox at Thamkrabok, one of other clients told me he wanted to write a memoir about his experience. I was extremely sceptical and suspected of him of having delusions of grandeur – he might as well have been telling me he was planning to fly to Mars. The idea that I would one day write a book about my experiences wasn’t even worthy of consideration, yet this is what I went on to do.
So much of my identity exists in spite of me and not because of me. Unexpected opportunities have appeared in my life, and all I had to do was take advantage of them. Almost all of my best decisions (e.g. starting this blog) were suggestions that came from other people – I probably wouldn’t have done them otherwise.
Every time I’ve tried to force my own expectations on reality, it has ended badly. This is because it meant living from a script in my head rather than what is actually happening in reality. Expectations are just stories about the future. I’m lousy when it comes to prediction, so my stories are almost always at least partially wrong.
Whatever Happened to Paul Garrigan the World Famous Author?
A good example of how my expectations led to unnecessary suffering would be my brief stint as a world famous author. It was other people who suggested I send off my writing to a publisher, but I latched onto the author identity with an enthusiasm only an ex-addict could muster.
Reality didn’t deliver the fame and success I was expecting, and so I felt incredibly disappointed. I did get to go on a book tour, attend book signings, appear on TV and Radio, but none of that mattered to me because it wasn’t happening according to my script.
One of my dreams as a kids was to one day be able to walk into Easons in Dublin (a large bookshop) and see my book on display. This dream did come true, but by then my expectation were on a much grander scale that it no longer really mattered – my expectations took most of enjoyment out of what should have been a wonderful experience.
Expectations about my future are something I try my best to avoid now. I love working as a mindfulness coach, but I know that building too many expectations around this identity is likely to blow up in my face too. It is much better for me to approach the future in an open way. I can’t predict the future, but I trust it because the ride has been so rewarding up until this point.
“Adults envy the open-hearted and open-minded explorations of children; seeing their joy and curiosity, we pine for our own capacity for wide-eyed wonder.”
It is expectations that robs us of our ability to approach life in an open-hearted and open-minded manner. Mindfulness is all about letting go of expectations – it means dealing with what is there and not what we thing should be there.
The Importance of Faith
Letting go of expectations requires a leap of faith. It feels counter intuitive to those of us who have approached life as a battle where we struggle to reach our goals. We may worry that if we hold our expectations with less ferocity, it will mean we become apathetic and less able to achieve anything.
We need to be clear that letting go of expectations does not mean we become passive and uninvolved in planning our future. It just means we focus more on taking the right action and less on the outcome of this action (which we can never really know). Letting go of expectations means we let go of the belief that the universe should behave according to our internal script. It means learning to appreciate the quirkiness and unexpectedness of life because we get is often a lot better than what we originally wanted.
Part 1 – The Mindful Path from Addiction to Serenity
Part 2 – Why Mindfulness Makes the Perfect Replacement for Addiction
Part 3 – How Mindfulness Works
Part 4 – Mindfulness versus Addiction Cravings
Part 5 – Mindfulness for the Ups and Downs in Recovery – Part 1
Part 6 – Mindfulness for the Ups and Downs in Recovery – Part 2
Part 7 – How to Mindfully Find Your Life Purpose – Part 1