Expectations and Attachments Define Life



Recently I came across this statement, “The best way to get what you want is not want it.” The cynicism embedded in the above statement kept me awake for many hours. I had to pen down my thoughts to calm them. How can you call self-denial the “best way”? How can you quell your desires?

Expectation is a natural human instinct – a child expects attention, love and care. If he doesn’t get the basic care, his expectations don’t end there. He seeks them elsewhere.

Those children who grow up in misery and penury don’t get immune to expectations. Their eyes are always at the sky, anticipating all that they yearn for!

Our expectations flow like a stream that keeps widening as it touches the plains. The seeds of expectation are nurtured at a very early stage of life by our parents, teachers and friends.

This so called positive assertion of “giving up what you want” may have some spiritual connotation attached to it but tell that to a child or an adolescent and you would get the real looks! They may call you cynical; scoff at your advice and consider you too old to even interact with. Buddhist philosophy appeals only to the elderly.

Wants and desires are innate. They make us human. They are those streamers that inspire us to hang out despite the windy weather. They push us toward our goals, ignite a fire of excellence and lure us toward accomplishing more. Some of them lie dormant, waiting for the right opportunity.

Life would become meaningless and hollow without desires. True, they keep on multiplying; they may even disappoint us but without them all fun flies out of our lives. Expectations and attachments define life for us.attachments

Why attachments are essential: Initial attachments introduce us to people, they underline love for us and acquaint us with the basic values of bonding, care and respect. As children grow out of those attachments, ready to face the world, they feel connected with friends; they learn the value of love and nurture relationships to live a meaningful life.

What would life be without any attachments? All human emotions germinate from attachments, which may bind us emotionally but they keep us grounded to ennoble us. Only when we feel attached do we learn compassion. Solitude seems good only after having experienced all that human beings can offer to each other. Detachment is a mere word that has failed miserably despite its valuable aspects. When we try to detach, we have to snub what our heart says. Who would like to do that?

Needs have a profound connection with attachments. Why do you need a smart phone? Our grandparents could do without it yet somebody thought of better connections. Needs, however absurd they may seem, lead us to progress, to a better society and fulfilling life.

Desires keep us motivated; they encourage us to strive, to keep going despite all the odds. They shape us into better human beings. They add fresh dimensions to mundane aspects of life.

Giving up expectations and attachments is like giving up your hold on life. I am sure all of you would agree. Please share your reflections.

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Balroop Singh.

31 thoughts on “Expectations and Attachments Define Life

  1. The statements that you found are so contextual, Balroop. Of course, most people have desires, and we hopefully set reasonable goals and work toward them. It’s normal for children to want love and toys, and it’s up to parents to manage expectations. But there have been many instances in my life where I wanted something so bad (like a boyfriend) that I was overpowering with my insecurity, neediness, and desperation. If wasn’t until I found my own strength and inner satisfaction (and didn’t need a boyfriend) that they started banging on my door (well, probably an exaggeration. Lol). I find that giving (versus wanting) brings better results for me as an adult. I put positive energy out there and somehow karmically it comes back. We both know that positive attachment is developmentally critical to children, and attachment to other people is one of the joys of life. But attachment to things (money, shoes, youth, fame, stuff in general) can really bog down the spirit. Learning to let go of attachments to things – still enjoying them and cherishing them – but being just as happy without them, is something that I hope do. 😀

    1. I can understand your contextual interpretation Diana, when we tell ourselves not to want a particular thing or relationship, I call such a situation ‘encouraging self-denial’ even if it is beyond our reach, and it could prove detrimental for self-development. Looking forward to new opportunities and expecting more than what we desire could take us into fresh avenues. Living and getting immersed in modern disillusionments that may contribute to clinical depression could be avoided if we don’t listen to negative talk of “not wanting what we desire.”
      Material attachments lose their charm as we advance in age and it is as natural to take pleasure in giving as it is in receiving in young age. Thank you for sharing your insights. Stay blessed.

  2. You have rightly said, Balroop. Desire is wanting something with all our heart. People who are ambitious strive to achieve goals and they often desire success; however, they are ambitious, not greedy, if their achievements and goals are attained for the greater good and without harming others. However, selfish and excessive desire is widely considered immoral, a violation of natural or divine law. Greed is a sin.

    1. Desires have many shades and all of them thrive, as they are connected with various kinds of people. What is important is that we must keep them alive and put in the right efforts to accomplish them. Don’t give them up just because they seem unattainable.
      Many thanks for standing by to read and share your thoughts Indra, much appreciated.

  3. As I’ve gotten older, my attachments to people have far outweighed my attachment to things. You asked, “Why do I need a smart phone?” I find it completely mind-boggling that people who are considered “low-income” are purchasing $800-$1000 phones. Great topic, Balroop!

    1. Attachment to people we love is natural to grow deeper with age, Jill. Thank you for sharing that thought, probably people strive to keep up appearances, which is an innate instinct. 🙂

  4. Desire creates and drives life, as without it the world itself would not have materialised. Planet earth, as we perceive it, is born out of the desire of Prakriti and Purusha, meaning the female and male principle. “Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached”, exhorted Swami Vivekananda, whose birth anniversary falls today. Hence there is nothing wrong with ennobling desire egging a person on towards life’s goals. Negativity sets in only when desires degenerate to obsessive attachments to material acquisitions, jeopardising relationships and evolutionary aspirations to finer aspects of life. One of the names that readily comes to mind as an example is that of Charles Feeney who not merely amassed wealth but gave away more than USD 8 Bn in charity while still opting to remain anonymous. Thanks, Balroop, for your observatiins on the subject.

    1. Thank you Raj for standing by to share your prudence, as always they veer towards philosophy, drawn from various experiences! All youngsters start with materialistic desires along with dreams of accomplishing dizzying heights. Only when they face some setbacks do they learn to mellow down but life passes by and makes us settle for whatever we have. Relationships too pass through the tunnels of time and very few are able to understand the significance of attachments. Blessed are those who steer carefully on the learning curve.
      I appreciate your thought-provoking reflections. Many thanks for sharing.

  5. I can relate this to the fact that it is expectation and desire for things that keeps us going whether it is live or want for a new car. Humans cannot easily detach from things. That’s the way nature wants us to be.

    1. Well said arv! It is human to expect more from yourself, whatever the context. I wonder how people think of “not wanting,” which seems to be a lie or “sour grapes” situation.

      1. True. Unless we have got into a mental state that we don’t want much of anything and are thankful everything. It is usually after a certain age or once you have achieved everything possible.

  6. I agree Balroop not always easy to detach and unpick a life time of conditioning of expectations of feeling obligated. Its so much easier to conform with what is expected of you, rather than go against the grain and stand in your own light to BE that which you wish to BE.
    Lessons we have all of us who have been defining our lives through the many layers we have had to peel away in order to find that essence of Self.. Often conditioned by our childhood experiences.
    And even then there can often be an internal battle of wills, as expectation again overtakes, as we worry how others perceive us.

    ” values of bonding, care and respect.”….. these indeed Balroop are the essential ingredients to nurture children, when these key components are inherent within their makeup, I have found these values stay with them and they grow learning to balance that love and respect in sharing with others..

    Always good to read your wisdom Balroop.
    Many thanks for sharing all you do.. Love and Blessings my friend

    1. “Conditioning of expectations” is a very relevant point Sue. Thanks for mentioning it. Children have no choice and have to conform to the expectations of their parents. They grow up with that conditioning and it is hard to let go what they have been raised with. Some goals seem larger than self and all their life is devoted to accomplish them. Only late in life do they realise how much have they relied on what was expected of them…such is the connection between expectations and attachments.
      Living up to the expectations of society, peer group and self add up to the pressure…do we ever get a chance to ponder where is life heading? Thank you for shining light on such a significant aspect of the topic. Love and hugs dear friend.

  7. This is such a great perspective, Balroop. I love how you were inspired by something you read. this often happens to me and I go off on a tangent 😛 I agree that we can’t change the fact that we will always have wants. Knowing the difference between our wants and needs though is key. We’d have to be dead to not desire or want anything.

    The only other thought is that perhaps the author meant, if we stop pining, things we want will come? hmmmm, that would take a great deal of patience though.

    1. Provocative statements draw out a quick response from me. To me, it seemed a discouragement, a negativity, a suppression of desires. I can let it go if it concerns some relationship, which is tiresome or toxic but not if it refers to goals or wishes. If I felt a strong dislike for the statement, it must be a general one.

  8. Such a thoughtful post, Balroop. Agree, expectation and desire are human wants (and needs), feelings that come from within us. So true that desires are what makes life tick in many instances. We desire to feel better, and desire others to achieve what they want so they live a life they want to live. Sometimes I don’t like expectations as not all expectations come true – leaving one disappointed. That said, when we experience disappointment or feel let down, we’ll always need to look ahead…and that often means setting ourselves different expectations.

    1. Disappointments are a part of life Mabel, only after we experience some setbacks do we understand the value of success. Life is like that…all expectations don’t come true but giving up on them is cowardly.
      Thank you for the visit Mabel, hope all is well at your end.

  9. Interesting post, once again, Balroop. I cannot say what is right for another, but for me nonattachment works its magic. If I fixate on something I want, I restrict the free flow of creative/divine energy that yearns to grant my wish, if only I would step out of the way. Because. Often gifts appear in forms I would not recognize, were I to limit them to my desires made manifest. So this works for me, and my life is truly abundantly blessed. Aloha ❤

    1. Thank you Bela, for sharing such a balanced perspective. Non-attachments have to be consciously created and it a blessing to learn the art 😊♥️

    1. I agree Jeri, detachment descends like an unseen monster who refuses to back off. Sometimes I wonder why attachments are natural and detachments so hard.

  10. Very interesting Balroop!
    I belive desires are part of life. If we don’t have anymore, what does life become?
    As for attachment, it definitely depends what we put behind this word. In some situations it can be life-threatening…
    I love when you say Buddhist philosophy appeals only to the elderly. We do become wiser along the way….

    1. Thank you for a well thought out response Marie. Both these words…expectations and attachments have different meaning for each person but nobody can deny their role in our lives. While attachments teach us the basic emotions, expectations inspire us to live a meaningful life. 🙂

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